There are a number of reasons why it is important to have a diverse workforce in national security. Diversity in thought, race, gender, and so many other things allows us to look at problems from different vantage points and come up with the best solutions.
The benefits of neurodiversity are similar to the advantages of diversity in backgrounds, training, gender, or culture.
Mercyhurst University out of Erie, PA has incredible ties to the Intelligence Community (IC) for a few reasons. The Ridge College of Intelligence and Applied Sciences is the oldest and one of the leading schools of intelligence, and incited innovation within the arena of Applied Intelligence. Starting officially in the 1990s, the school has shaped intelligence analysts for the government and private sector ever since. Their students connect with an alumni group of more than 1,000 graduates who work in a wide variety of fields and organizations in the IC, and each year, around 70 Intelligence Studies students receive contracts to conduct intelligence analysis for many agencies.
The university also holds an autism program known as the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM). The school has become a pioneer and resource for other universities in developing curriculums for autism services. The program strives to highlight each student’s abilities within the academic, social, emotional, and independent living areas, while building on skills within different majors.
AIM supports students in all areas of their university experience such as their academics or social and emotional functioning. The mission of the AIM is to facilitate and support the successful adjustment and progression of college students who are on the spectrum by broadening their vocational opportunities, and enhancing community engagement. Also, the Career Path Program prepares students for successful employment following graduation. This program has also been selected by the White House to provide support in developing neurodiversity in the cybersecurity field for federal agencies.
As the demand has grown for cyber analysts, cyber security became a major utilizing the same analytical seminars in its core curriculum. Combining elements of the successful intelligence program and AIM, along with how they have evolved over the years, Mercyhurst announced plans to launch a pilot program to train students on the autism spectrum for jobs in cybersecurity. The program is made possible through the collaboration of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
In addition to providing seed funding, PwC is also going to offer internship opportunities for students in the program.
Faced with daunting shortages of trained cybersecurity professionals, the US needs to tap into nontraditional pools of talent to fill these critical roles in national security. These endeavors are based on how many characteristics of people with autism make them ideally suited to work in the cybersecurity field, including their attention to detail and investigative nature.
What’s emerging for many workplaces is the importance of neurodiversity: how companies can attract and retain professionals who are diverse in the way they think and process information.
Mercyhurst is fostering this through these important and needed programs.