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Training and Education Are Two Primary AFCEA Missions

June 2011
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

The global security community has never had a greater need for training and education—or needed more help.

The global shortage of people fully qualified in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines has created a dilemma for our community. Government, industry and academia all are competing for the services of a work force limited both in size and specialized abilities. Too few of our youth are motivated to pursue technical careers. Contributing to this problem is the fact that we do not have enough qualified STEM teachers to educate our youth and motivate them to pursue these more technical disciplines. In his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama declared that the United States alone needs 100,000 additional math and science teachers to fill this shortage. This number understates the problem because the same shortages exist worldwide.

AFCEA, through the Educational Foundation and the association’s chapters globally, has been contributing to STEM education for many years with scholarships for students who are pursuing STEM education. AFCEA also has provided grants to math and science teachers who want to improve their programs beyond the resources available to them through state and local government. In addition, the association has supported math and science competitions and science fairs to educate and motivate youth.

The shortage of STEM teachers has caused us to re-examine our path. Starting last year, we launched a new scholarship program aimed at students who want to become STEM teachers. By helping to increase the numbers of qualified and motivated STEM teachers, we can reach and teach more potential STEM students than we could with direct scholarships. We intend to boost this program each year and will partner with our chapters as well as with academic institutions in 2012 and beyond to multiply its effects.

Many of our corporate members also have significant STEM programs. We hope to create partnerships among some of these companies to address the teacher shortage problem more quickly. We need to increase our current program by an order of magnitude to address the situation fully. More companies need to join us in this effort. Please contact us if this crucial endeavor resonates with you.

The combined demands of dramatically increased information sharing—prompting virtualization, Web 2.0/3.0 technologies and networking—as well as for cybersecurity to address the rapidly increasing cyberthreat have created a significant need for professional development training in these critical skills. These specific requirements, like the larger STEM problem, have resulted in the rapid need to train a work force that is ill equipped to meet the requirements of government, industry and academia. Important issues include defining the necessary training, locating the required funding, and conducting the training with skilled instructors.

At AFCEA, we are receiving requests weekly from all over the world to help with the training, particularly in cybersecurity and networking. We are working with governments to refine the need; we have increased the offerings in our Professional Development Center (PDC); and we have partnered with a number of academic institutions and training providers.

In particular, we have partnered with the iCollege of the National Defense University to provide forums for information exchange and training globally. Experts in information technology and cybersecurity, iCollege faculty members are charged with offering training and education to U.S. federal leaders and international students in the global security community. A partnership with the iCollege is a perfect fit for AFCEA. We already have teamed in the Pacific Rim, Southwest Asia, Europe and South America. Requests are coming for additional coverage.

I would be remiss if I did not mention one other aspect of training and education. We need to share expertise among ourselves at every opportunity. No matter how much effort we put into training and education, we never will have enough skilled people to meet the need in every government and in every organization worldwide. At a recent AFCEA event, Adm. James Stavridis, USN, the 2011 recipient of the association’s David Sarnoff Award—AFCEA’s highest honor—discussed the critical importance of information sharing. The admiral, currently the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and commander, U.S. European Command, said that every leader should read and write regularly. It is important, he said, that leaders publish frequently so that ideas and expertise can be shared. Adm. Stavridis practices what he preaches—he is one of the most published officers in the U.S. military. Sadly, most of us do not share our experience and expertise. AFCEA provides many forums and publication opportunities to share ideas, particularly for young officers. Please, get in the game.

If you need assistance with education and training, please let us know—we will try to help. If you can and want to contribute time and/or funding, whether you are in government, industry or academia, let us know that as well. And, as always, thanks for all you do.