I recently had the opportunity to testify before Congress on how the United States can grow and diversify the cyber talent pipeline. It’s great that members of Congress have this issue on their radar, but at the same time, it’s concerning that we’re still having these discussions. A recent (ISC) Study puts the global cybersecurity workforce shortage at 2.93 million. Solving this problem is challenging, but I offered some recommendations to the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation.
Increase the NSF CyberCorps Scholarships for Service Program
The National Science Foundation (NSF) together with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designed a program to attract more college students to cybersecurity, and it’s working. Ten to 12 juniors and seniors at each of the approximately 70 participating institutions across the country receive free tuition for up to two years plus annual stipends. Once they’ve completed their cybersecurity coursework and an internship, they go to work for the federal government for the same amount of time they’ve been in the program. Afterwards, they’re free to remain federal employees or move elsewhere, yet fortunately, a good number of them choose to stay.
Congress needs to increase the funding for this program (which has been flat since 2017) from $55 million to at least $200 million. Today the scholarships are available at 70 land grant colleges. The program needs to be opened up to more universities and colleges across the country.
Expand CyberCorps Scholarships to Community Colleges
Community colleges attract a wide array of students – a fact that is good for the cybersecurity profession. Some community college attendees are recent high school graduates, but many are more mature, working adults or returning students looking for a career change or skills training. A strong security operation requires differing levels of skills, so having a flexible scholarship program at a community college could not only benefit graduates but also provide the profession with necessary skills.
Furthermore, not everyone in cybersecurity needs a four-year degree. In fact, they don’t need to have a traditional degree at all. Certificate programs provide valuable training, and as employers, we should change our hiring requirements to reflect that reality.
Foster Diversity of Thinking, Recruiting and Hiring
Cybersecurity is one of the greatest technical challenges of our time, and we need to be as creative as possible to meet it. In addition to continually advancing technology, we need to identify people from diverse backgrounds – and not just in the standard sense of the term. We need to diversify the talent pool in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and age, all of which lead to creating an inclusive team that will deliver better results. However, we also should seek out gamers, veterans, people working on technical certificates, and retirees from computing and other fields such as psychology, liberal arts as well as engineering. There is no one background required to be a cybersecurity professional. We absolutely need people with deep technical skills, but we also need teams with diverse perspectives, capabilities and levels of professional maturity.
Public-Private Sector Cross Pollination
We also must develop creative approaches to enabling the public and private sectors to share talent, particularly during significant cybersecurity events. We should design a mechanism for cyber professionals – particularly analysts or those who are training to become analysts – to move back and forth between the public and private sector so that government organizations would have a continual refresh of expertise. This type of cross-pollination would help everyone share best practices on technology, business processes and people management.
One way to accomplish this would be for DHS to partner with companies and other organizations such as universities to staff a cadre of cybersecurity professionals – operators, analysts and researchers – who are credentialed to move freely between public and private sector service. These professionals, particularly those in the private sector, could be on call to help an impacted entity and the government respond to a major attack in a timely way. Much like the National Guard, a flexible staffing approach to closing the skills gap could become a model of excellence.
We’re Walking the Talk
McAfee is proud to support the community to establish programs that provide skills to help build the STEM pipeline, fill related job openings, and close gender and diversity gaps. These programs include an Online Safety Program, onsite training programs and internships for high school students. Our employees also volunteer in schools help educate students on both cybersecurity risks and opportunities. Through volunteer-run programs across the globe, McAfee has educated more than 500,000 children to date.
As part of the McAfee’s new pilot Achievement & Excellence in STEM Scholarship program, we’ll make three awards of $10,000 for the 2019-2020 school year. Twelve students from each of the three partner schools will be invited to apply, in coordination with each partner institution’s respective college advisor. Target students are college-bound, high school seniors with demonstrated passion for STEM fields, who are seeking a future in a STEM-related path. This type of a program can easily be replicated by other companies and used to support the growth and expansion of the workforce.
We’re Supporting Diversity
While we recognize there is still more to do in fostering diversity, we’re proud to describe the strides we’re making at McAfee. We believe we have a responsibility to our employees, customers and communities to ensure our workplace reflects the world in which we live. Having a diverse, inclusive workforce is the right thing to do, and after we became an independent, standalone cybersecurity company in 2017, we made and have kept this a priority.
The steps we’re taking include:
- Achieving pay parity between women and men employees in April 2019, making us the first pureplay cybersecurity company to do so.
- In 2018, 27.1% of all global hires were female and 13% of all U.S. hires were underrepresented minorities.
- In June 2018, we launched our “Return to Workplace” program for men and women who have paused their career to raise children, care for loved ones or serve their country. The 12-week program offers the opportunity to reenter the tech space with the support and resources needed to successfully relaunch careers.
- Last year, we established the Diversity & Culture Council, a volunteer-led global initiative focused on creating an infrastructure for the development and maintenance of an integrated strategy for diversity and workplace culture.
- McAfee CEO Chris Young joined CEO Action for Diversity Inclusion, the largest group of CEOs and presidents committed to act on driving an inclusive workforce. By taking part in CEO Action, Young personally commits to advancing diversity and inclusion with the coalition’s three-pronged approach of fostering safe workplaces.
Looking to the Future
While I’d love to see a future where fewer cybersecurity professionals were needed, I know that for the foreseeable future, we’ll not only need great technology but also talented people. With that reality, we in the industry need to expand our vision and definition of what constitutes cybersecurity talent. The workforce shortage is such that we have to do expand our concepts and hiring requirements. In addition, the discipline itself will benefit from a population that brings more experiences, skills and diversity to bear on a field that is constantly changing.
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