Today, the White House Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) released the National Cybersecurity Workforce and Education Strategy, a roadmap to building a nation of responsible digital citizens and dedicated cyber professionals. The strategy expertly moves cyber workforce development from a sideline issue to a national imperative and emphasizes that U.S. national security is deeply intertwined with the strength, skills, and diversity of our cyber workforce.
My colleagues and I at the UC Berkeley Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity and the Consortium of Cybersecurity Clinics are proud to support the launch of the cybersecurity strategy. The document champions four key pillars:
- Equip every American with foundational cyber skills
- Transform cyber education
- Expand and enhance America’s cyber workforce
- Strengthen the federal cyber workforce
While ambitious in its scope the strategy is anchored in tactics and programs that have been proven effective attracting incredible people, promoting hands-on skills, and connecting them to jobs that value them.
We are particularly excited to see cybersecurity clinics, pioneered at UC Berkeley, MIT, Indiana University, and the University of Alabama and championed by member institutions in the Consortium, included as one of many programs that strengthen the cyber workforce. Clinics are featured in Recommendations 2.2.2 (“Enhance applied cyber content in interdisciplinary education programs”) and 3.2.5 (“Increase on-ramps to cyber careers through work-based learning opportunities”).
Similar to clinics in law and medicine, cybersecurity clinics promote hands-on learning by matching students with real clients and giving them the work experience they need to land their first job in cybersecurity. The mission-based work of cyber clinics attracts a multidisciplinary group of students to the field of cybersecurity, vastly increasing the number and types of students entering the cyber workforce. These programs also provide essential cybersecurity services to critical organizations that otherwise could not afford them, including municipalities, rural hospitals, small businesses, and nonprofits.
We are also glad to see such an inclusive description of workforce diversity within the strategy, as well as an emphasis on the many types of diversity that make for a strong and resilient workforce. We share ONCD’s commitment to making cybersecurity a welcoming field to people of different colors, backgrounds, and training, from rural areas to urban metropolises, and to include people of different abilities, sexualities, and perspectives.
The Cybersecurity Workforce and Education Strategy is not a silver bullet; rather, it is a long-term roadmap that shows how continued and expanded investments in the cyber workforce can lead to a more secure digital future for us all. Organizations in the cyber sector, from academic institutions to think tanks to large corporations, must rise to the occasion to ensure we reach these goals together.
The actions we take today to welcome more people to the cyber field will cause ripples for decades to come. The people we encourage, mentor, and hire will be the ones to bring our field into the new digital age, and protect us from cyber threats we cannot even imagine.