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White House looks to close massive cyber skills gap

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The White House unveiled Monday a comprehensive plan to address a yearslong shortage of qualified workers in the IT security industry. 

The National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy calls for government officials to work with the private sector and other key stakeholders to open foundational cyber skills to all Americans. Officials also plan to expand the number of training programs available for professional training and help develop a more diverse workforce, which has been vastly underrepresented by women and people of color. 

The IT security worker shortage has been a problem for years, as the global industry has suffered from more than 3 million unfilled jobs. Research from ISC2 shows the U.S. has a shortfall of about 410,000 and officials at that organization say the inability to fulfill those jobs presents a risk to national and economic security.

“We appreciate the emphasis on a national ecosystem approach for meaningful change in cyber education and workforce development,” Clar Rosso, CEO of ISC2, said via email. 

The industry has been plagued by increased rates of burnout in recent years due to a surge in cyberattacks, including ransomware and other malicious activity. 

The White House announced commitments from a number of government agencies, leading technology companies, foundations and other stakeholders that are designed to accelerate the number of trained IT security and technology professionals. The plan includes commitments private companies have already made.  

Google in June committed $20 million to help train thousands of students under a partnership with the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics. 

Microsoft is partnering with the Last Mile Education Fund, Whatcom Community College and the American Association of Community Colleges on a goal announced in 2021 to help train and recruit more than 250,000 people into the cybersecurity workforce by 2025. 

Check Point Software has committed to training a million people in cybersecurity by 2028 through its MIND Cyber Security Training Program. 

There are a number of specific programs designed to increase the number of federal workers, as key agencies have also been trying to fill needed technology and information security roles. 

Some of the programs include the following: 

  • The National Science Foundation will invest $24 million over the next four years in CyberCorp Scholarship for Service, to address challenges in developing the security workforce across federal, state, local and tribal governments. 
  • The National Security Agency’s National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Program will release four grants for a pilot program to develop cyber clinics at accredited colleges and universities in Nevada, Minnesota, Louisiana and Virginia. 
  • The Cyber Readiness Institute and the Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation will launch a critical infrastructure pilot that provides basic training for up to 200 water utilities around the country. The program is being sponsored by Microsoft. 
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced a two-year development program within the VA Cybersecurity Operations Center. The program will provide hands-on learning for cybersecurity apprentices.

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