Cyber Space: Filling The Void

A federal initiative to expand the cyber workforce and skills calls for collaboration among stakeholders.

By BF Editors
From the September / October 2023 Issue

 

This past July, the Biden-Harris Administration unveiled the National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy (NCWES), a first-of-its-kind comprehensive approach aimed at addressing both immediate and long-term cyber workforce needs. Filling the hundreds of thousands of cyber job vacancies across the U.S. is a national security imperative, and the Administration is making generational investments to prepare the country to lead in the digital economy. The NCWES is positioned to empower those seeking to participate in the digital ecosystem and underscores the critical need to fill a vast number of vacant cyber jobs.

Many communities currently underrepresented in the cyber workforce do not envision themselves in cyber jobs or are not aware of the opportunity to join this crucial, growing workforce, according to the NCWES initiative’s information.

cyber workforce
(Photo: Adobe Stock / photon photo)

 

The NCWES follows the release of the President’s National Cybersecurity Strategy, which established a vision for the development of digital environment that is values-aligned and well-resourced to address a complex threat environment. The NCWES envisions a skills-based digital future where workers have access to good-paying, middle-class cyber jobs within their communities. In addition, educators are enabled to continuously upskill the public, and employers can expand and diversify their workforce. The NCWES was developed in consultation with non-governmental stakeholder groups, including private industry, academia, non-profits, government partners, and others.

The NCWES emphasizes the collaboration of all relevant stakeholders—including educators, industry, and government. Together, with these partners, the Biden-Harris Administration laid out the following pathways to forging cyber careers.

  • Leverage adaptable ecosystems to effect change at scale. The NCWES represents a whole-of-nation effort to spark, support, and scale local ecosystems for cyber education and workforce development.
  • Enable the lifelong development of cyber skills. All Americans should be equipped with foundational cyber skills that are needed to navigate daily life. Those in every sector of the workforce should be prepared with industry-specific or occupation-specific cyber skills. Further, people who are in the cyber workforce should be equipped with specialized cyber skills that will change over the course of their careers.
  • Grow and enhance the cyber workforce through diversity and inclusion. A diverse workforce increases the pool of eligible workers and which provides novel ways to solve problems and develop solutions to the complex challenges. The NCWES charts a course for providing access to well-paying jobs.

State Level: Starting Sooner In North Dakota

In March 2023, North Dakota became the first state in the U.S. to approve legislation that mandates cybersecurity education. Governor Doug Burgum and North Dakota School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler announced this past Spring the governor’s signing of HB1398, which requires the teaching of computer science and cybersecurity and the integration of these content standards into school coursework in K-12 education.

Baesler described it as “the culmination of years of work by stakeholders from all sectors to recognize and promote the importance of cybersecurity and computer science education in our elementary, middle, and high schools.”

EduTech, a division of North Dakota Information Technology that provides information technology support and professional development for K-12 educators, will develop examples of cybersecurity and computer science education integration plans that may be used to assist local schools develop their own plans.

Gov. Burgum said HB1398 was in keeping with his administration’s emphasis on developing student and citizen knowledge of computer science and cybersecurity, which he described as “one of the most pressing issues that we have in North Dakota.” The administration’s PK-20W initiative, with its vision of “Every Student, Every School, Cyber Educated,” aims to ensure students have the skills and know-how to succeed in a technology-driven economy.

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In 2022, the governor announced that any North Dakota resident may take online classes in cybersecurity, networking, programming, and other subjects to bolster their knowledge, improve their job skills, and explore whether they want to pursue a technology career. “North Dakota Citizens Skills for All” is offered by the Cisco Networking Academy through EduTech.

Baesler said HB1398 was the capstone of work that began in 2015, when the Department of Public Instruction formed a working group of legislators and other stakeholders to craft a vision for K-12 education’s computer science and cybersecurity instructional needs. Since then, in collaboration with other state agencies, business and industry experts, families, teachers and administrators, the NDDPI has led the development of K-12 computer science and cybersecurity academic content standards, and cybersecurity and computer science credentials for educators to add to their teaching licenses.

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