June 5, 2024

As the Federal Government rises to the challenge of filling over 500,000 open and good-paying cyber jobs, Acting Principal Deputy National Cyber Director (APDNCD) Jake Braun traveled to Tennessee yesterday to meet with local stakeholders who are answering the call. As part of the National Cyber Workforce and Education Roadshow, he participated in valuable discussions with academia, critical infrastructure practitioners, and state officials. Each engagement illustrated how Tennessee is expanding the cyber pipeline and workforce opportunities across sectors, in alignment with the President’s National Cybersecurity Strategy and the National Cyber Workforce Education Strategy (NCWES).

APDNCD Braun kicked off his trip in Cookeville, with a visit to the National Center of Excellence for Cybersecurity at Tennessee Tech University, where he heard from the university’s president, provost, and many professors about the ways they are shaping their curricula and educational offerings to address the nation’s evolving cyber needs. Tennessee Tech is home to the Cyber Education, Research, and Outreach Center (CEROC), which has been preparing students for jobs in cybersecurity since its inception in 2015. Among its many initiatives, the CEROC oversees a student-built Cyber Range, supports K-12 cybersecurity programming to expose students to the diverse opportunities afforded to them in cyber, and coordinates student mentoring groups and involvement in national-level cyber competitions.

A highlight of the meeting was hearing directly from students who are benefitting from the CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service Program and the Federal Government careers they will be pursuing post-graduation. Through other creative engagements executed through student efforts like GenCyber on Wheels and the university’s Center for Rural Innovation, Tennessee Tech has built a model for bringing cybersecurity technical assistance to some of the nation’s most distressed rural communities.

After visiting Tennessee Tech, APDNCD Braun traveled to Nashville for a conversation about the importance of securing our nation’s water infrastructure. He pointed to resources provided through the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investing in America agenda, which can be leveraged to incorporate cybersecurity into infrastructure projects from the onset and explained how to use these once-in-a-generation investments to support pathways to building a cyber workforce in underserved, rural areas. APDNCD Braun encouraged the use of skills-based hiring as a way to recruit capable talent into good-paying jobs.

APDNCD Braun’s visit to Nashville concluded with a roundtable meeting with several Tennessee officials to learn about their cybersecurity priorities, successes, and challenges. The discussion largely focused on critical infrastructure cybersecurity, including: how to improve the posture of the state’s K-12 schools with no-cost solutions; how to safeguard the state’s most critical water systems; progress on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program; and best practices for developing a robust cyber workforce.

While over 13,000 Tennesseans are employed in cyber, there are more than 5,000 vacancies in the state and 2,300 job openings in the Nashville metropolitan area alone. APDNCD Braun emphasized his message throughout the day. He encouraged Tennesseans to “work within your communities to leverage Investing in America resources to… identify infrastructure projects in need of cybersecurity and bake cyber in on the front end to make sure these investments are resilient and long-lasting.”

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