By Kemba Walden, Acting National Cyber Director
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and I’d like to reflect on our collective responsibility to defend our country, serve our communities, and protect our families.
Digital technologies today touch nearly every aspect of our lives. In less than a generation, technology has transformed just about everything including how we connect with our families and friends, build businesses, and foster communities. We now rely on cyberspace as the foundation for much of our interconnectivity and it’s inextricably linked to our culture, economy and national security.
In the 20 years we’ve pursued cybersecurity awareness, we’ve acknowledged that people are a crucial element of cyberspace and, a strong workforce is key to securing cyberspace. This year, I urge everyone to join us in the work to develop the cyber workforce the nation so urgently needs. By building cybersecurity awareness into your business operations and connecting to cyber ecosystems in your communities, you can have a real impact on our nation’s security.
While technological innovation is ever-increasing, we’ve always relied on the skill of our workforce to keep apace. Our workers have shown time and time again that, if given an opportunity, they are dynamic, adaptable and up to any challenge. Now, we must redouble our work to ensure they are supported in their efforts to join this important mission to create a secure, resilient and defensible cyberspace that is aligned with our values.
That support is exactly what we’re fostering at the White House Office of the National Cyber Director. As part of President Biden’s National Cyber Security Strategy, we followed up with a National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy in July that charts a path to ensure more Americans can obtain good-paying, middle-class jobs in cyber.
Thus far, dozens of organizations have raised their hands pledging to help. But it will take much more.
So today, as we embark on the 20th annual Cybersecurity Awareness Month, I’m calling on organizations nationwide – technology and non-tech companies alike, academic institutions, state and local governments, and workers who are considering a career in cybersecurity, and others – to join us in building a cyber workforce to meet the challenge of this decisive decade.
Investing in cybersecurity is good for the nation, good for your business and good for your valued workforce. Here’s a few things employers can do today:
- Reconsider Requiring Four-Year College Degrees as minimum requirement and Commit to Skills-Based Hiring: I encourage employers across the nation to reexamine their hiring criteria and job descriptions for your technical jobs. Are you requiring a four-year college degree for every position? Consider changing your position descriptions (PDs) and hiring practices to welcome more applicants and workers with relevant skills and experience from apprenticeships, community college workforce programs, coding bootcamps, or online certifications if they meet your needs.
- Commit to Hiring a Diverse Workforce: Ensure you’re considering applicants with varying backgrounds and life experiences, and leveraging community organizations to reach new candidate pools. Diversity is our superpower and we have only just begun to tap into the capabilities of our full population. Women and underserved and underrepresented community members, first generation professionals, individuals with disabilities, and members of rural communities are particularly under-represented in cyber jobs. Veterans separating from active-duty service, parents reentering the workforce, retiring first responders and others from varying backgrounds, very often have or can easily attain the skills we need to fill critical cyber jobs. The untapped skill and potential of these groups act like an anchor holding back the economy and we miss the ability to solve harder problems with more and varying perspectives.
- Commit to Ongoing Workforce Training: Cyber is always changing because the threat is continuously evolving. We stay safe when we keep learning, so we need employers, online academies, trade groups, and others to continually train our workforce so we are competitive in this century and the next. Organizations big or small should commit to investing in your workforce.
Creating opportunities, training, and pathways for workers is only one side of the equation. We also need passionate and skilled workers ready to take on this challenge. Together, we can build ecosystems of workers, educators and employers that will feed the economy and build a resilient cyberspace.
To American workers, I encourage you to connect to the cyber ecosystem in your own communities. These networks of public-private partnerships can help you find a path to a cyber career and point you to increasingly accessible jobs in almost every sector of the economy.
Every industry – from energy to construction, healthcare to law enforcement, manufacturing to transportation – needs workers with cyber skills.
Join us. Make your career in a field where you can serve the nation, protect your community, and make a good living.
- If you’re looking for a career change, learn more about cyber career pathways and find links to free and low-cost online educational content.
- If you’re a parent and your child is showing an interest in cyber, encourage them to explore possible careers at cyber.org.
- If you’ve started your cyber journey, keep investing in yourself by continuing to learn and encourage others to join the field.
For employees and employers alike, we have helpful resources on our website WhiteHouse.gov/CyberWorkforce. Get advice, identify potential partners, and tell us how you’re joining the effort to build our nation’s cyber workforce.
As the Acting National Cyber Director, I strive to ensure that everyone thrives and prospers in the digital ecosystem. Together, we will continue to address cyber workforce demands, build long-term workforce capacity, and position all Americans to benefit from the enormous potential of our interconnected future.
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