Tomorrow’s cyber employeesGovernment preps next generation of cybersecurity employees

Published 8 December 2011

With the increasingly critical role that technology plays in everyday lives and the growing threat of hackers, the U.S. government is actively working to educate the next generation of cybersecurity officials

With the increasingly critical role that technology plays in everyday lives and the growing threat of hackers, the U.S. government is actively workingto educate the next generation of cybersecurity officials.

Currently the need for qualified cybersecurity professionals in both the private and public sector is growing more urgent as demand outpaces supply.

NIST projects that more than 700,000 new cybersecurity professionals will be needed in the United States alone by 2015.

The need for cybersecurity is only increasing. It is imperative that we develop a nation of cybersavvy citizens and a strong workforce to support and protect our digital economy and our national security,” said Michael Kaiser, the executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA).

To that end, the U.S. Department of Education has teamed up with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to launch several initiatives aimed at cultivating cybersecurity professionals.

The two agencies recently partnered with NCSA to promote cybersecurity education programs in K-12 schools, higher education, as well as career and technical education environments. The program will bring together government officials, industry leaders, members of the non-profit community, and academia to make recommendations and suggest guidelines on cybereducation.

In particular, the initiative will focus on identifying the cybersecurity education needs of young people along with the the basic knowledge, skills, and competencies a future IT professional will need to protect critical government or business networks.

With cyberthreats on the rise, career opportunities in cybersecurity will continue to grow, and students need to have access to the necessary foundational education and other prerequisites needed to pursue them,” said Ernest McDuffie, the lead manager of NIST’s National Initiative for Cyber Security Education (NICE).

To further bolster the U.S. cybersecurity workforce, NIST recently issued a draft of its “Cybersecurity Workforce Framework” in November as part of the NICE program.

The framework is designed to define the professional requirements in cybersecurity, similar to the way that accounting, medicine, and law have official requirements, by classifying the typical duties and skill requirements of cybersecurity workers.

One thing NICE has found is that there has not been a consistent way to define or describe cybersecurity work across the federal workforce,” McDuffie explained.

So far the cybersecurity workforce has not fit into traditional job titles and descriptions for federal job classifications, so NIST is seeking to better define them.

McDuffie welcomes input from the private industry in helping to craft the language around cybersecurity positions in the federal work force.

By defining some common language about the workforce, it will be easier for all sectors to understand their own needs and requirements and better communicate them to educators and trainers so they can better prepare the future workforce for the actual needs of all sectors public and private,” McDuffie said.