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Massachusetts Names CyberCenter Lead, Grants to Bolster IT Workforce

Speaking at the 2018 Massachusetts Cybersecurity Forum, Gov. Charlie Baker announced new leadership for the MassCyberCenter and grants to stimulate workforce development.

Massachusetts redoubled its efforts to improve cybersecurity, announcing the leaders of a new cybercenter and advisory council and the investment of nearly $400,000 toward identifying and training the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

Speaking at the 2018 Massachusetts Cybersecurity Forum in Boston Sept. 27, Gov. Charlie Baker said U.S. Navy Capt. Stephanie Helm will be the first director of the MassCyberCenter at the Mass Tech Collaborative.

A nearly 30-year U.S. Navy veteran, Helm has served as a cryptologic/information warfare officer and was most recently consultant at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., where she offered subject-matter expertise on cyberspace, space and information operations. The MassCyberCenter was announced just a year ago at the behest of the Baker administration. It’s aimed at strengthening the state’s cybersecurity ecosystem and helping it to be more competitive in the cybersecurity marketplace.

Baker’s administration also announced 19 executives that will constitute the Cybersecurity Strategy Council, a panel that will assist the center in identifying ways to boost the state’s economic growth and cyber-resilience. Michael Brown, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral and the former director for cybersecurity coordination in the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the federal Department of Homeland Security, will chair the council.

“The MassCyberCenter and Cybersecurity Strategy Council were created to ensure the state serves as a valuable partner with businesses, colleges and universities, and the public sector to grow Massachusetts’ cybersecurity industry and continue developing a talented workforce,” Baker said in a statement.

Helm said the Center will “play a central role” in convening discussions on cybersecurity in state government and with the private sector and academia.

“I’m excited to lead this effort on behalf of the Commonwealth and to better prepare the state to manage future cyberthreats,” she said in the statement.

The governor also announced the awarding of more than $385,000 in three challenge grants to pilot work preparing entry-level cybersecurity job seekers — in a state with 9,000 open cybersecurity jobs last year according to MassCyberCenter research.

•    Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Mass., received $250,000 to lead a project engaging 30 grad and undergrad cybersecurity students, mostly women, for a year as paid interns on teams that will do cyberaudits for small and mid-sized companies at reduced cost.

•    STEMatch in Wellesley, Mass., received $61,178 to fund a collaboration between community colleges, tech providers, businesses and others to expand the pool of cybersecurity job candidates to underrepresented groups and displaced workers.

•    MassHire Greater New Bedford Workforce Board received $74,690 to identify 20 talented high school juniors and seniors in the southeastern part of the state and guide them through a 15-month cybersecurity program.

Baker also announced a new state commitment to support "cyber-resiliency" with a working group led by the MassCyberCenter at MassTech that will assess working relationships and collaborations between public agencies on cybersecurity.

“We look forward to the work the MassCyberCenter will do under Captain Helm’s leadership, the support and guidance the Council will provide, and the impact that our Cybersecurity Workforce Talent Challenge winners will make in support of the broader strategy to support cybersecurity in the Commonwealth and make Massachusetts’ public and private institutions more resilient to cybersecurity attacks,” Baker said.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito highlighted the need employers and municipalities have for resources to combat cybersecurity threats and said in a statement: “Through Capt. Helm’s leadership, and the work of the Cybersecurity Strategy Council, we can bring to bear the best that the Massachusetts cybersecurity ecosystem has to offer to help these institutions, while also leading conversations on workforce development and business needs with our growing cybercompanies.”

Theo Douglas is assistant managing editor for Industry Insider — California, and before that was a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.