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Building a 21st Century Cyber Workforce

Posted by Mark Weatherford, Deputy Under Secretary for Cybersecurity, National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD)

As more and more daily functions rely on digital systems, the importance and necessity of protecting our computers, mobile devices, and networks will only continue to increase.  While the vast majority of the nation’s cyber infrastructure resides in private hands, the national security and economic risks associated with these assets are so profound that their protection is of national importance.  To minimize the risk of a successful cyber attack, we need everyone, including our industry partners, the general public, and yes, our partners in academia, to do their part.

According to a 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Commerce, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs are expected to grow 17% in the next decade -- nearly double what is projected for non-STEM occupations,. These opportunities are not just promising careers, they are opportunities to help secure our nation against the new generation of cyber threats.

Promoting STEM education is an essential step to developing a skilled cyber workforce. Formal, national cybersecurity education programs, such as the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, work to establish an operational, sustainable, and continually improving cybersecurity education program for all Americans. The National Centers of Academic Excellence have certified more than 125 institutions nationwide that teach students valuable technical skills and promote research in various disciplines of information assurance.

DHS is committed to recruiting, training, and retaining cybersecurity professionals that are vital to the effort to make the Internet a safer and more secure place for everyone. Earlier this month, Secretary Napolitano received eleven recommendations from the Homeland Security Advisory Council Task Force on CyberSkills to improve DHS’ ability to build a world-class cybersecurity team and a strong pipeline of talented new hires for the future.

We are also building models of effective STEM education. One way we do that is through our sponsorship of cyber competitions across the country where participants can practice and hone cybersecurity skills in controlled, real-world environments. Stop.Think.Connect.™ Cyber Career Sessions also help undergraduate and graduate students, young professionals, and adults in job transitions learn about educational and career advancement opportunities available in government, academia, non-profit, and private industry.

And if I can make a pitch: DHS is a great place to come to work to help move this vision forward. We are a new department. It is a place where all of us – including you have the opportunity to make a positive impact for your country.  We see these opportunities not just as promising careers, but as opportunities to contribute to something larger – to contribute to public service. 

With a workforce trained in the skills crucial to success in the information age, there is no end to what Americans can do if we ACT – Achieve Cybersecurity Together. To learn more about DHS cyber education and training initiatives, click here.

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