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Local students eyed as solution to global cybersecurity workforce gap 

STEM the tide

click to enlarge Launched in 2018, the National Cybersecurity Center Student Alliance stands as the only Career and Technical Student Organization in the country solely dedicated to cybersecurity. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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  • Launched in 2018, the National Cybersecurity Center Student Alliance stands as the only Career and Technical Student Organization in the country solely dedicated to cybersecurity.

One of the world’s greatest government, military, financial and social challenges has been made even worse by a workforce shortage of global proportions. (ISC)2, an international cybersecurity association, found there are close to 3 million cybersecurity job openings worldwide. In the U.S., 350,000 cybersecurity jobs are unfilled.

The Springs-based National Cybersecurity Center works with students to fill that gap with a one-of-a-kind program that’s unique to the United States. Launched in 2018, the National Cybersecurity Center Student Alliance stands as the only Career and Technical Student Organization in the country solely dedicated to cybersecurity.

NCCSA operates as a school-based network of student-run chapters that provides learning, competitions, leadership and soft-skills development, networking, skill-building and social opportunities to help student members prepare for the vast array of career pathways in technology and cybersecurity. Colorado Springs has 11 chapters, which should grow to 30 by the end of the year.

(ISC)2 also reported that North America has the second-largest shortage of STEM cybersecurity workers across the world (after the Asia-Pacific region) at 498,000, which is why increasing and securing future talent in cybersecurity fields must be a priority in today’s industrial and educational landscape. Depending on their responsibilities, cybersecurity professionals can earn $90,000 to $210,000 annually.

As a society, we are not engaging students early enough to pique their interest in a cybersecurity career. The NCCSA addresses that by drenching students in digital knowledge. Studies show when we reach students at an early age, they are more likely to stick with it through college. 

Just as important as growth: diversification. It’s a matter of introducing cybersecurity to students of every race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic level. There are bright and brilliant minds that are overlooking cybersecurity simply because they haven’t been exposed to it in schools. Students will dive deeper into cybersecurity through two NCC programs in Colorado Springs this summer.

click to enlarge CyberCamp, co-hosted by the NCC and the Air Force Association, runs July 15-19,  and is designed to encourage youths to pursue STEM pathways and build a foundational technology skill set.
  • CyberCamp, co-hosted by the NCC and the Air Force Association, runs July 15-19,  and is designed to encourage youths to pursue STEM pathways and build a foundational technology skill set.

CyberCamp, co-hosted by the NCC and the Air Force Association, runs July 15-19,  and is designed to encourage youths to pursue STEM pathways and build a foundational technology skill set. At the NCC, participants will be immersed in experiential learning and connect with mentors from across the technology spectrum, including Civil Air Patrol Maj. Bill Blatchley, a CyberPatriot national champion and national coach of the year.

September marks the inaugural Mayor’s Cyber Cup with support from Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers. Teams of local high school and middle school students will create 30-second public service announcements to highlight cybersecurity safety and awareness. Winning videos will be showcased at the NCC’s 2019 Cyber Symposium Sept. 19 and 20 at The Broadmoor.

Educators interested in learning more about the National Cybersecurity Center Student Alliance and establishing a school chapter may visit cyberctso.org for details and an application.

Thomas Russell is an award-winning educator and the National Cybersecurity Center’s career and technical student organization program manager. After retiring from the U.S. Army, he pursued teaching and taught cybersecurity, networking, technology literacy and other courses at Falcon High School. He also wrote the “Technicalities” online column for the Indy from mid-2017 to late 2018. To learn more about the NCCSA and skills development opportunities for students, email thomas.russell@cyber-center.org.

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