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Workforce Shortages Focus of CyberSecurity Summit

By Linda Caulkins

At a recent cybersecurity workforce and economic development summit at Old Dominion University's Virginia Beach Higher Education Center, the main topic was how to fill the 36,000 positions that remain open in Virginia.

Leaders from academia, economic development and industry discussed ways to address the workforce gap during the Oct. 27 conference hosted by the Hampton Roads Cybersecurity Education, Workforce and Economic Development Alliance — also known as HRCyber. State Senator Frank Wagner delivered the keynote address.

"Everywhere I go across the state, business leaders tell me their number one problem is finding technically qualified workers," he said. "The demand is clearly out there to fill those jobs."

Wagner discussed strategies used to address the growing shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the Hampton Roads region and throughout the Commonwealth, telling the approximately 100 attendees, "we've got to make the investments in education and adult training. There's something in there for everyone.

"We have great opportunities in Virginia," Wagner continued. "City departments of Economic development should mine opportunities for the training needed by the local workforce."

Panel topics included cybersecurity educational pathways; cybersecurity internships and apprenticeships; and cybersecurity workforce and economic development. ODU Student Panelist Chris Weiss talked about his path from Thomas Nelson Community College using the VCCS Articulation Agreement to guarantee his admission to Old Dominion University to study Information Systems.

Weiss landed an advantageous internship with Sentara. He currently is involved in the Cybersecurity student association he help get started; planning CTS and other challenge competitions for more hands-on experience that builds the needed skill-set for success in the workplace.

"This conference bridges the gap between the roles of student and employee," he said.

Other panelists commented on the need to define a student's specific interest and academic strengths and guide them to find career passion through exploration within their educational experience.

The U.S. Department of Commerce supported the HRCyber grant as one of five regional alliances and multi-stakeholder partnerships (RAMPS) to stimulate cybersecurity education and workforce development under National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) objectives.

HRCyber is a partnership of 43 organizations including K-12 public school districts; community colleges and four-year universities; city economic development offices; non-profit organizations; federal government agencies; and private employers.

By addressing the workforce needs of employers, HRCyber focuses on developing a fully trained cybersecurity workforce through educational pathways from high school through community college to four-year and graduate institutions and continued professional development. HRCyber achieves this goal by increasing the pipeline of high-quality students pursuing cybersecurity careers.

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