Per Scholas convenes cyber security task force to build pipeline for Cyber Security need in the National Capital Region

Per Scholas convenes cyber security task force to build pipeline for cyber security need in the National Capital Region.

Experts from private industry, higher education, and government join Per Scholas to begin initial planning.

Per Scholas, National IT workforce development expert, brings together cyber security specialists in a conversation on the regional skills gap for entry-level cyber security positions. The panel convened October 8 at the Silver Spring Civic Center with leaders from private industry, higher education, and government working in partnership to develop pathways into the cyber workforce.

“Cyber is so dynamic. You cannot teach it from a textbook,” said panelist Renee Forney, Executive Director of CyberSkills Management Support Initiative at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “The key is true information sharing. If all interested parties can work together, then we can create a workforce that is agile enough to combat these threats.”

The recent security breach at JPMorgan Chase has caused cyber security issues to rise to the top of headlines and the priority list of policy experts, educators and business owners. The issue of cyber security is by no means new to the industry with 1.5 million cyber attacks monitored in the U.S. in 2013. Nor is the problem exclusive to our biggest companies: 75 percent of breaches occur in companies with fewer than 100 employees.

The Washington metro area had more than 23,000 job postings for cyber security positions in 2013, the largest concentration in the nation. Growing demand is only part of the challenge faced by employers. A pipeline of abundant talent is also scarce given specific qualifications required for cyber security–like security clearance and minimum years of industry experience.

Substantial investments in preparing a skilled workforce are being made in the region to address this imminent growth. Montgomery Community College, as the lead college of a consortium of Maryland community colleges, has been awarded a $15 million TAACCCT grant to support cyber-technology workforce development. Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance 2-Year Education (CAE2Y) by the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The panel evaluated and discussed the current cyber security landscape, the restrictions that cause the talent gap, alternatives for building a stronger pipeline, and considerations in creating a diverse pipeline of local talent to fill immediate and future need. The conversation included a strong emphasis on the importance of all leaders working together as a team towards the creation of an evolved workforce.

“I am heartened by the diversity of the people in this room. We need to recognize that we all have a very important role to play,” said Jason Green, Per Scholas advisory board member and co-founder of SkillSmart, a technology venture designed to match job seekers to employment opportunities based on skills. “It’s not an opportunity, it’s a requirement. We can’t address the significant challenge ahead unless we work together.

Panelists included moderator Mark Shaw from ManTech International, the region’s largest cyber security employer; Mike Knapp, Skillsmart; Charles Britt, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA); Richard Hill, Accenture; Renee Forney, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Kelley Bray, Symantec; Steve Silverman, Department of Economic Development, Montgomery County; and Bridgette Gray, Per Scholas. Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Navarro made opening remarks. Representatives from the offices of U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and U.S. Congressman Chris Van Hollen were in attendance.

“Today was a breath of fresh air,” says Bridgette Gray, Managing Director for Per Scholas National Capital Region. “Often, we’re trying to resolve regional challenges in our own silos. Today, we began the process of breaking down these silos. To address regional issues, we must erase jurisdictional lines by bringing all
players across the region to the table; there’s a place for everyone. In all of our markets, Per Scholas strives to meet the specific demands of regional employers through our IT training. It takes strong partnerships to make that happen. We are happy to take the lead in building out this task force with all of our partners.”

Per Scholas recently established partnerships with private company Doran Jones to build a talent pipeline of software testers, and a middle-skill training with the City of New York community college system. A similar approach will be taken toward cyber security opportunities in the National Capital Region.

The Per Scholas rapid re-employment training approach provides immediate relief for IT workforce demand. Its core entry-level training IT-Ready is only 8 weeks, allowing graduates to quickly fill available positions. And Per Scholas has the employer partners to bridge job seekers to jobs. IT-Ready training is an onramp to entry-level jobs, then the potential for continued education and skill advancement through established cyber programs at postsecondary institutions. Per Scholas opened in the National Capital Region in early 2014. The Per Scholas approach has been recognized as additive to existing efforts by leaders in business, government and education. Today’s panel is a joint effort to address regional cyber workforce demand.

“I partnered with Per Scholas because building an experienced pool of cyber security professionals is a regional challenge that requires a regional solution. As a national leader in developing collaborative partnerships to address workforce development needs, Northern Virginia Community College stands ready to lend its experience in this partnership to creating a sustainable pipeline of cyber security talent in the Greater Washington region.” Charles Britt, STEM Coordinator, Northern Virginia Community College.

Following today’s panel, Per Scholas will convene the task force to begin building a blueprint for the cyber security workforce. Those interested in contributing ideas, jobs, data, funding and leadership may contact Bridgette Gray at [email protected]. A special thank you to the advisory board members Barbara Ebel, Charles Britt, Ed Glabus and Jason Green, who made today possible.

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