- - Tuesday, November 21, 2017

In the digitally integrated world we live in today, it’s nearly impossible to function successfully in any industry without making cybersecurity staffing a priority. No matter the size, no matter the sector, businesses all across the country are in growing need of professionals who specialize in cybersecurity.

As lawmakers who are supportive of pro-growth, pro-job creation economic policies, we’re excited to witness the explosion of new jobs that stems from the 21st century technology boom. But a serious problem lies in the shortage of qualified professionals that currently exists to fill these emerging positions.

Right now, America is facing a cyber skills gap that has left us with a whopping 200,000 unfilled jobs in the cybersecurity sector — a number that’s projected to hit 1.8 million in the next five years. This is a chronic issue impacting us in the private and public sectors alike, ultimately at the expense of our national security.

While identifying the cyber skills gap has proven far easier than finding ways to close it, as subcommittee chairmen who oversee work being done in Congress to improve the cyber workforce pipeline across sectors, we’ve been using an integrated approach to find solutions.

That’s why we recently held a joint hearing with the House Homeland Security Committee’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee and the Education and Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development.

This collaborative approach gave us an opportunity to hear from a panel of witnesses representing employers and institutions with significant experience in this field about current best practices to prepare people seeking jobs in the cyber workforce.

Our discussions with top professionals in higher education confirmed how important it is to build and maintain effective alliances between our federal government, community groups, universities, and career and technical schools as we all move forward to address the cyber skills gap.

As one of the witnesses, Douglas Rapp, testified to on behalf of the Cyber Leadership Alliance, the synergies that can result from these public-private partnerships can be enormous. And we believe this type of teamwork should span across all facets of workforce development — from education to the hiring process to retention.

Additionally, we should be giving more thought to recruiting groups such as military veterans who have already been trained in cybersecurity as a part of their service.

We should also be taking full advantage of regional partnerships where close cooperation already exists between industry and area colleges, which ensures the use of curriculum that is more responsive to the needs of the local industry.

Further, we should be looking ahead at what new cybersecurity roles will begin to emerge, so we can appropriately focus recruitment criteria on the inherent skills required to perform these jobs, rather than looking at existing certifications or degrees that may be misaligned with the cybersecurity jobs of tomorrow.

Beyond this, we should send Information Sharing and Analysis Center staffers to schools to train the students and teachers, create more cyber boot camps to keep educators up to date with emerging needs, and consider the conversion of cybersecurity certificates into associate’s degrees for better opportunities for students seeking cyber-related jobs in government.

As we begin implementing these solutions and more, we’re hopeful about our ability to make a dent in the daunting skills gap that already exists across our country. Collaboration between sectors and industries must continue, so we can quickly and continually adapt our strategies to build the most robust cyber workforce possible.

John Ratcliffe, Texas Republican, is chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection. Brett Guthrie, Kentucky Republican, is chairman of the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development.

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