Tomoree Randall was making $10 an hour working retail in San Diego when he enrolled in a fast-track information technology training program, which the city created with local partners through the TechHire Initiative. Within months, Tomoree passed a certification test and got a full-time job as a hardware / software specialist, roughly doubling his prior salary and providing a pathway to future jobs. When asked about next steps, Tomoree said, “I’d like to get a position ensuring people’s information and data are safe. Continuing to grow in my cyber security expertise will play a key role in achieving my career goals.”
The importance of efforts like San Diego’s to invest in cybersecurity has never been more clear. And yet, employers across sectors who are trying to bolster their cybersecurity efforts often cannot find the talent they need. There are more than half a million open technology jobs today, many of which require cybersecurity skills. That gap leaves American consumers, workers, and employers vulnerable.
To address these shortcomings, the Obama Administration has worked aggressively on several fronts to rapidly expand and train the cybersecurity workforce of the future. We launched the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), a program led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the U.S. Department of Commerce, to create an ecosystem of cybersecurity education, training, and workforce development. And at the community level, we are supporting the development of fast-track tech training programs through TechHire, building public-private collaboration to help train and place people into tech jobs.
NICE was designed to expand the cybersecurity workforce by accelerating learning and skills development; nurturing a diverse learning community; and guiding career development and workforce planning. NICE is undertaking a range of strategies to put these goals into action.
As one example, last month NICE introduced CyberSeek, an interactive online tool that makes it easier for cybersecurity job seekers to find openings and for employers to identify the skilled workers they need. In addition, the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework provides a common, consistent lexicon to categorize and describe cybersecurity work, which improves matching between employers and potential talent, while also facilitating improved cybersecurity education and metrics. And finally, consistent with the Vice President’s job-driven training report, NICE has released $1 million in grants to help local regions and communities develop local training programs focused on cybersecurity.
The President’s TechHire initiative demonstrates a pathway to achieving these same goals at the community level. Launched in March 2015, the TechHire initiative has now grown to over 70 communities with more than 1,500 employer partners. In these TechHire communities, local leaders commit to open pathways to tech jobs for workers from nontraditional backgrounds; expand accelerated tech learning programs, such as coding bootcamps; and give people the chance to get hired based on their demonstrated ability rather than their written resume.
This June, the Department of Labor awarded $150 million in TechHire grants for partnerships to develop tech talent following this model across the country. Through these funds and other investments, local communities are launching a range of innovative training and placement models in critical tech fields, including cybersecurity.
Virginia, for example, has been a leader in using TechHire strategies and partnerships to develop local cybersecurity talent, with strong support from the Governor’s Office, a recent $20 million investment by the General Assembly, and a Commerce Department grant to coordinate the Hampton Roads Cybersecurity Education, Workforce, and Economic Development Alliance. This fall, Virginia had over 1,200 students enrolled in a sub-baccalaureate cyber security program – more than six times the enrollment from two years ago. And on Veteran’s Day, Virginia announced a partnership with Cisco, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and Amazon Web Services to pilot free online cybersecurity courses for transitioning service members. Virginia also initiated its first registered apprenticeship in cybersecurity this past year.
San Diego, where workers like Tomoree are already benefiting from TechHire investments, is another community that has gone all-in on training the tech workforce of tomorrow. Through a self-paced training and work-experience model, the City of San Diego, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, and its partners will help over 1,000 youth and young adults – including 150 veterans – begin their careers in coding and cyber security. Code San Diego participants will earn digital badges and build work portfolios in common coding languages and in-demand technical competencies. As students build their portfolios, they will also be placed in a paid 6-week internship, connecting participants to the labor market at no cost or risk to the business. This portfolio and work experience training approach will help accelerate the shift toward hiring based on demonstrated skills in common coding and cybersecurity occupations, helping individuals with barriers to employment forge new paths to well-paying careers.
The demand for cybersecurity skills will only continue to grow. Through local collaborative efforts between employers, training providers, and community leaders, we can be sure that all individuals have the opportunity to build on their tech knowledge and participate in the thriving tech economy.
To learn more about other labor market policies that are proven to support workers with finding good jobs and acquiring new skills, please read the Issue Brief released today by the Council of Economic Advisers.
Bruce Andrews is the Deputy Secretary of Commerce.
Matthew Colangelo is the Deputy Director of the National Economic Council and Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.