Interactive Tools Help Connect Government with Qualified Cyberprofessionals

Government IT executives find themselves in a pitched battle with the private sector to woo cyberpros from what most describe as an insufficient labor pool — but CyberSeek hopes to help.

by / November 16, 2016

When it comes to building a qualified cybersecurity workforce, state and local technology leaders have a new implement in their toolbox.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently launched CyberSeek, an interactive online resource that planners say will make it easier for cybersecurity job seekers to find openings and for employers to identify skilled workers.

“This lets you know the competition you have in terms of the total number of jobs available, and it can help you to understand where the talent might reside,” said Rodney Petersen, director of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), the NIST program responsible for the project.

As cybercrime and digital vulnerabilities have come to the fore, government IT executives find themselves in a pitched battle with the private sector in the effort to woo cyberpros from what most describe as an insufficient labor pool.

Some 60 percent of  U.S. government technology leaders report not having enough cybersecurity experts to meet the demand, according to (ISC)2’s 2015 Global Information Security Workforce Study. Respondents included 1,099 military and 727 civilian IT executives.

The dearth of certified professionals is evident as one considers the national rate of cyberjob vacancies. As of March 2015 more than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs were unfilled, according to a research project from Stanford University. Symantec CEO Michael Brown predicts a global gap of 1.5 million cyberprofessionals by 2019.

CyberSeek looks to address the problem on a number of fronts, with an interactive map, career path information for job seekers, and jobs data on specific niche areas within cyber.

The interactive map reports on the total number of job openings by state, as well as by metro area, with cities sortable by size, and with the number of job openings color coded for quick reference. The map also shows a color-coded guide to the available cyberlabor supply, and a simple visual reference indicating the supply/demand ratio.

The site also offers a national overview: There are 778,402 people working in cyber today and 348,975 job openings. That’s a snapshot based on reported data from July 2015 through June 2016. Petersen said figures will be updated at least every six months and possibly more often.

For state and local officials worried about the state of the cyberworkforce, all this data can serve as a valuable guide, Petersen said.

For example, the map offers detailed information on IT certifications, like the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). There are 69,549 of those folks out there and 92,802 job openings that ask for this certification. “So this could definitely be used to benchmark job descriptions and position requirements,” he said. “Clearly there is a deficit here, so maybe rather than requiring CISSP, you might want to look at an alternative way of getting the experience and the expertise you are looking for. Seeing these numbers, you are really shooting yourself in the foot if you require this certification when there is no current adequate supply to provide that.”

The program aims to help not just with immediate hiring needs but also with long-range planning. “What is the demand like in Austin versus Houston versus Dallas? Knowing this, you can start to understand what kind of pipeline you need to build, what kind of ecosystem you need to develop,” he said.

“We want to get the universities producing more graduates, we want the community colleges feeding the pipeline, so we need the high schools to be focus on this and to be generating interest,” he said. “It’s about getting the entire workforce development system working together. A lot of students will go to college within 50 miles of where they grow up and then go to work in that same area, so seeing how all those pieces can work together is really critical.”

NIST has made previous forays into the cyberworkforce development arena. In September the agency made grants totaling nearly $1 million for a range of projects aimed at building the cyber labor pool. This included funding to the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education, Old Dominion University, the State University of New York at Albany, Chicanos Por La Causa and Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs, Colo.

All those efforts aim to forge partnerships between government, academia and the private sector, in the effort to address the cyberskills gap.

“We are trying to influence the entire ecosystem,” Petersen said. “We want to raise awareness, in addition to driving change and innovation.”

Adam Stone Contributing Writer

A seasoned journalist with 20+ years' experience, Adam Stone covers education, technology, government and the military, along with diverse other topics. His work has appeared in dozens of general and niche publications nationwide.