Opinion

America Needs a Skilled Cybersecurity Workforce

There are estimates that the global economic impact of cybercrime is around $300-400 billion annually. And, on a recent trip to Silicon Valley, the Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, said that a recent intrusion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff network is just the latest example of the complexity of global threats we face and how crucial a modern cyber-ready armed forces is to meet those threats. Lawmakers at the federal and state levels are seeking legislative solutions to address cybersecurity challenges and corporate America is investing heavily in new technology to counter external threats. While it is important that congressional leaders and the administration cooperate to secure government systems and ensure that malicious hackers are held accountable for their actions, we must also ensure we have the skilled workforce to do the work.

On Tuesday, Atrion CEO Tim Hebert was honored to have the opportunity as a guest of Rep. Langevin (D-R.I.) to attend President Obama’s final State of the Union address. In his speech, the President touched on the need for American’s to have greater access to education and training in order to land good-paying jobs. This is vital to the technology industry as companies struggle everyday to find qualified talent to fill open positions.

One of the larger cyber threats we face in this country is a deficit of highly skilled workers to secure our critical IT systems and track down the bad actors around the globe. In an effort to fill the pipeline of qualified workers and encourage advancement in the cybersecurity field, both CompTIA and Atrion have been supportive of apprentice programs. These programs allow individuals with limited experience an opportunity to obtain knowledge, skills and relevant on-the-job experience to gain meaningful employment in the IT industry.

CompTIA has been working closely with both its membership and the government to support IT training and job placement programs that help unemployed and under-employed individuals gain their first jobs in the tech fields. Jobs in the tech field have above average wages and lead to long-term careers in the field. CompTIA has also been very supportive of work-based learning programs that allow students to contextualize classroom learning by gaining work experience while simultaneously earning credits toward a high school or post-secondary degree.

Atrion, a CompTIA member, launched its IT Apprenticeship Program almost eight years ago and has become a leader not only in Rhode Island but the nation in combating the IT talent deficit. Atrion quickly realized that technology is moving at the speed of light, and the talent pool is smaller than ever. One of Atrion’s programs is a 12-week technical boot camp providing extensive training as well as hands-on experience to qualified individuals looking to start a career in the IT industry. If these individual complete the 12-week boot camp, they are guided, coached and mentored for an additional nine months.

Atrion’s apprentice programs are unique because they develop character, technical “hard” skills and client-facing “soft” skills. These programs are designed to train engineers who are capable of excelling in an evolving IT landscape which will be more complex, less siloed and more responsible for delivering positive outcomes for the business. To date, there have been almost 100 graduates, and the most recent apprentice class to join the IT workforce included 18 men and women, many of whom had no previous IT experience before joining the program.

We will continue working with Congress and the administration on policies and programs to address many of the tough and unknown threats around cybersecurity. However, we must be proactive in the creation of a highly skilled workforce starting now – we cannot afford to wait. With a sufficient number of highly trained workers, we can effectively protect our personal data, intellectual property, networks, infrastructure, military technology, country and most importantly the American way of life.

Todd Thibodeaux is the president and chief executive officer of CompTIA, the ICT Industry Trade Association. He is responsible for leading strategy, development and growth efforts for the association. Before joining CompTIA in July 2008, Thibodeaux spent more than 17 years with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), where he served in a wide range of roles culminating as its senior vice president of industry relations.

Tim Hebert serves as Atrion’s CEO, President, Captain, and Superhero. Tim has driven himself and Atrion over the last twenty years to remain on the cutting edge of the IT services industry, propelling Atrion to become a top 1% organization. Tim’s passion for people, leadership, and relationships extends beyond leading just Atrion’s family into success and growth. 

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