By Seeyew Mo, Assistant National Cyber Director for Workforce, Training and Education

Our nation desperately needs more cyber talent. Today, there are approximately half a million open cybersecurity positions across the country. These are good-paying jobs. Meaningful, purposeful jobs. Every member of the cyber community – whether they work for the Federal Government, in businesses large or small, non-profits, or in state, local, tribal and territorial governments – couldn’t be more important to our national security. They stand on the front lines advancing our economic prosperity, critical infrastructure and way of life.

In our increasingly digital world, demand for cyber talent is only going to grow. We are at a crucial point where we all must work together – across the Federal Government, private sector, academia and non-profits, and other stakeholders – and that’s exactly the action we called for in the National Cyber Education and Workforce Strategy (NCWES) released by the Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) nearly a year ago.

Today, ONCD issued a report outlining the progress we’ve made and the work to come implementing the NCWES.

We lay out several successes to date:

  • First, we have seen unprecedented coordination across the interagency. A total of 35 Federal departments and agencies participate in one or more of our many working groups, finding and sharing best practices and working toward the objectives in the NCWES.
  • Second, the Biden-Harris Administration is removing unnecessary barriers to cyber careers and leading by example in skills-based hiring. OPM is modernizing the Federal hiring process and fully embracing a skills-based approach for IT positions. Furthermore, this pivot to a skills-based approach extends to Federal IT and cybersecurity contractors across the country. That means anyone with the skills to serve will now have an opportunity to do so, regardless of how they acquire those skills.
  • Third, in order to make strides in education and workforce development systems, we are identifying Federal investments to provide more Americans with opportunities to access quality hands-on learning and training programs such as Cyber Clinics and earn-and-learn Registered Apprenticeships programs.
  • And finally, with the Federal Government stepping up to do its part, over 100 organizations – including philanthropies, technology companies, professional associations, and academic institutions – answered the call. They made voluntary commitments that included $95 million in investments, hiring 13,000 workers, and training one million individuals in cyber. These commitments are often spotlighted at ONCD outreach events as National Cyber Director Coker and the team have traveled across the country.

But there’s still much more to do. Unleashing America’s cyber talent is a hard problem, exactly the kind of challenge ONCD was created to lead. As we look ahead to take this challenge on, our report lays out what we have left to accomplish.

  • First, many Americans haven’t considered a job in cyber. While cyber professionals are part of a dynamic and diverse modern workforce, the “hacker in a hoodie” stereotype is still widespread. We need to reframe that image to every American so more talented individuals from all backgrounds and disciplines can see themselves joining the cyber workforce.  
  • Next, while we have good education and workforce development systems, they struggle to keep up with the increasing demand for talent. We need more teachers, training programs, and equipment for hands-on learning.
  • Finally, we know that many of the best solutions are unique to each community. The cyber workforce challenge is not a problem we can solve completely from Washington, D.C. Instead, we must continue to empower locally driven efforts to connect individuals to education, training, jobs, and wraparound services.

Solving these challenges is imperative. But, as my team and I say often, these challenges also serve as an opportunity – an opportunity to share best practices, to continue building innovative partnerships, for the Federal Government to continue convening, investing and leading by example.

In addition to my work with dedicated policy leaders across the Federal Government, I’ve had the opportunity to travel around this country engaging with a wide variety of schools, companies, other private-sector partners, non-profits, and students, all dedicated to unleashing the talent in this country. With every visit, whether it be in Tucson or Tennessee, North Carolina or Norfolk, I’ve met hundreds of students all eager to help defend our nation in cyberspace and hundreds of partners all working together to build up local talent ecosystems.

They all understand that keeping up with the demand for cyber talent in every industry and connecting Americans with good-paying, meaningful jobs in cyber is imperative to advancing our national security and economic prosperity. We are proud to lead the way and welcome even more partners into this work.

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