The National Initiative For Cybersecurity Education (NICE) published its first strategic plan earlier this month. NICE, headed by the National Institute Of Standards And Technology, is an initiative to strengthen America’s cybersecurity through the development and improvement of education programs. The initiative was started to combat threats to America’s cyberspace, which President Obama called “one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation”. NICE plans on raising the general public’s awareness of cybersecurity issues, promote cybersecurity-relevant skills in secondary and college curriculums, and develop the framework for a strong cybersecurity workforce.

NICE is working on improving the public’s knowledge of cybersecurity issues. The education campaign plans on targeting both work and home, especially in the areas of “fraud, identity theft, cyber predators, and cyber ethics”. According to the strategic plan’s authors, a more cyber-literate public will be better prepared to face the threats from malicious users they might encounter online.

In addition to educating the general public, NICE plans on developing a larger pool of American workers able to do cybersecurity jobs. To accomplish this, it is partnering with the National Science Foundation to incorporate cybersecurity into the College Board’s new Advanced Placement (AP) course in Computer Science Principles. This course, whose curriculum is nationally standardized, would likely be taken by thousands of college high school students around the country each year. But NICE’s efforts extend well beyond K-12, they also plan on promoting cybersecurity at the undergraduate and graduate levels, particularly in computer science, IT, and related degree programs.

The final component of the strategy is the development of “an agile, highly skilled professional cybersecurity workforce” which NICE argues “is required to secure, protect, and defend our nation’s information systems”. Much of NICE’s plan involves professionalizing the field through certification and licensing programs for different cyber career paths. It is hoped that by defining the levels and areas of proficiency of cyber skills through formal accreditation, potential employers and employees will be better able to communicate about the expected levels of proficiency and experience required by a given position.

While many details of NICE’s strategic plan have yet to be fully hashed out, yet alone realized, it is already clear that the concepts laid out in the document will shape the cybersecurity field over the next decade.

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Mike Jones is a researcher, writer, and analyst on national and international security. He lives in the DC area.