The nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service kicks off its inaugural class of the Cybersecurity Talent Initiative™- a new public and private collaboration with the goal of developing a world-class cybersecurity workforce. This inaugural class brings together 10 future cybersecurity leaders who deliver a variety of academic and professional experience to the federal government, along with more racial and ethnic diversity than the national cybersecurity talent pool currently trends.
Recent college graduates will be placed for two years at one of six federal agencies. After their initial service, they will be invited to apply for a position with one of the initiative’s corporate partners. Once hiring is in place, the applicant is eligible to receive up to $75,000 in student loan assistance.
Demand for Cybersecurity Talent Highlighted in 2020
In 2020, the spotlight has been shining on the demand for cybersecurity positions and the critical need for competent and highly-skilled workers. Both public and private need this skillset now more than ever. According to Cyber Seek, which is funded by the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, there were more than 500,000 cybersecurity job openings in the U. S. between June 2019 and May 2020. The problem only deepens in the federal workforce. As of July 2020, only about 23% of federal cybersecurity employees are under the age of 40, according to federal workforce data.
“The pandemic is showing us what happens when an underprepared federal government faces a disaster. Our reliance on remote work and learning through technology underscores the critical need to prepare for and safeguard against cyber threats,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership. “We can’t wait for another emergency to shore up our talent pipeline and staff the government with cybersecurity experts, and that is why the Cybersecurity Talent Initiative is so important,” Stier said.
Cybersecurity Talent Initiative Is A Win For Everyone
This initiative isn’t just good for the federal government. Commercial leaders also support the cause and are willing to collaborate in order to attract and build the next wave of cybersecurity talent. Ann Johnson, CVP SCI for business development at Microsoft shares, “While machine learning, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing hold promise for addressing cyber threats, that promise will be stifled if we do not recruit, train, and retain new cyber security professionals outside of traditional channels. With an abundance of cybersecurity jobs unfilled, investing in initiatives like Cybersecurity Talent Initiative helps not only address the current projected shortfall, but also helps keep our current cyber defenders from being stretched too thin, while fostering more inclusive cyber communities that help future proof bias’ in tech.”
One of the individuals from the inaugural 10 is Michelle Massarik, a graduate from the State University of New York at Albany who will be working at the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.
“I received my Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity and a minor in homeland security, and I really wanted to explore cybersecurity and infrastructure security,” Massarik said. “As a new college grad, I was unsure of what cybersecurity areas I wanted to pursue, but this initiative assisted me with career and professional development to make the transition from university as smooth as possible. Service in the federal government also gives me a chance to apply my skills in a way that will make a difference to the lives of all Americans. I am really excited to bring my knowledge and experience into the working world.”
Schools and Agencies Represented
Other schools represented in the initial cohort include: The George Washington University; John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Maryville University; State University of New York at Albany; Marymount University; Regent University; University of Maryland Global Campus; Howard University and Western Governors University.
Federal agencies participating in the Cybersecurity Talent Initiative include: the Central Intelligence Agency, Departments of Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Election Commission, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Office of Naval Intelligence. Corporate partners include Mastercard, Microsoft and Workday.
“The HHS Office of Information Security is excited to continue to partner with the Cybersecurity Talent Initiative in 2020. Together we will address the growing need for talent to safeguard the nation’s health and human services digital infrastructure from cyber threats. We were thrilled to be part of the inaugural year of the initiative,” Janet Vogel, chief information security officer at the Department of Health and Human Services. “In the coming year, we remain committed to public-private partnerships that identify the best emerging digital leaders from the participating colleges and universities.”
Second Round Open to Keep Filling the Cybersecurity Talent Gaps
The application process is now open to the second round of cohorts. Students in undergraduate or graduate degree programs in cybersecurity fields should apply. By spring 2021, agencies will make offers for participants to begin their time in the program in summer or fall of 2021. In order to bring about the next wave of talent, we have to create it. The Cybersecurity Talent Initiative is a key way for organizations and federal agencies to work together to find a solution to address the current cybersecurity talent gap.