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CISA Works to Sprout Cyber Workforce

The agency’s new cyber advisory committee is helping to identify ideas and programs to fill cyber workforce gaps.
With an estimated 400,000 unfilled cyber jobs in the United States, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency started several initiatives to grow the cyber professional workforce, reports David Mussington, executive assistant director for Infrastructure Security at the agency, speaking at AFCEA’s TechNet Cyber 2022 conference.

With an estimated 400,000 unfilled cyber jobs in the United States, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency started several initiatives to grow the cyber professional workforce, reports David Mussington, executive assistant director for Infrastructure Security at the agency, speaking at AFCEA’s TechNet Cyber 2022 conference.

The U.S. government agency known as CISA, charged with helping the country manage and reduce the risks of cyber threats to digital and physical infrastructure, is pursuing several efforts to add cyber professionals to the workforce. Experts say there are almost 2.7 million unstaffed cyber positions globally, with almost 400,000 unfilled cyber jobs in the United States, according to a recent (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study. This year, CISA—the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency—started several initiatives to grow the cyber professional workforce, reported David Mussington, executive assistant director for Infrastructure Security at the agency.

Mussington spoke on April 26 at AFCEA’s TechNet Cyber conference being held in Baltimore through Thursday, April 28.

Created in December, the agency’s Cyber Security Advisory Committee of 23 members from industry, academia and government, develops recommendations to further CISA’s missions. Growing the cyber workforce is one of five areas identified for the committee to pursue, he noted.

“To transform our cybersecurity workforce today, CISA is working to build pathways to help America’s academic institutions prepare students for careers in cybersecurity,” Mussington stated.

One such pathway is CISA’s investment in the Cyber Scholarship for Service Program that offers scholarships for college students interested in a career in cybersecurity in exchange for agreeing to a few years of government service after graduation.

In addition, the agency’s elementary, middle and high school program provides cybersecurity lessons to teachers and schools across the country. “Our K-12 program has provided cybersecurity curricula access to over 26,000 teachers to date, helping to influence over 3 million students to join the cybersecurity career field in the future,” Harrington said.

The agency plans on expanding that K-12 effort to reach communities that have not had access to cybersecurity educational resources before.

“Our past is impressive, but our future K-12 areas we deem brighter,” he offered. “Next year our program will aggressively focus on underserved communities, Title I schools, students with disabilities and increasing the outreach to historically black colleges and universities.”

Moreover, CISA is building a cyber reskilling program aimed at retraining noncybersecurity federal professionals for entry-level cybersecurity opportunities through a 12-month program.

Partnerships with other cyber organizations, such as Girls Who Code, will also help to reach traditionally underrepresented communities.

“Earlier this year we offered a new funding opportunity for nonprofits focused on identifying and developing the unrealized cybersecurity talent of underserved communities,” Mussington shared. “Opening cybersecurity opportunities to underserved communities will help build a cyber workforce that reflects America’s makeup, with a diversity of ethnicity, gender, education and sexual orientation.”

In addition, CISA is pursuing regional efforts to attract cyber professionals across the United States. “We also recognize that not all cyber expertise resides inside the Capital Beltway,” Mussington acknowledged. “We're hiring at our regional offices and offering remote positions throughout the nation, to recruit a workforce that is geographically diverse.”

Lastly, the agency recently released a new cyber workforce training guide that individuals across the federal government can access to help chart a career in cybersecurity.

“This helps make careers inside cybersecurity more accessible and allows more people to envision a future in the cybersecurity field,” he stated.