Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of talk about the challenges that cybersecurity companies face in finding talent. As a client once said, “We love to admire this problem.” But what are we doing about it?

RH Strategic recently attended two events in D.C. where the participants and assembled guests did more than just admire the problem: Industry leaders and policymakers presented solid plans and blueprints to help alleviate it. These plans are characterized by the ingenuity, expertise and foresight necessary to tackle this growing problem within the industry.

Tech+Policy @ Intel: Diversifying the Cyber & Tech Workforce Through JROTC

One of our public affairs clients sponsored a panel discussion about cybersecurity and the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), “Diversifying the Cyber & Tech Workforce Through JROTC,” with support from RH Strategic. The Tech+Policy discussion highlighted a legislative initiative, the JROTC Cyber Training Act, that would help train and prepare junior reserve officers for futures in computer science and cybersecurity by establishing the JROTC Computer Science and Cybersecurity Program.

Sponsored by Rep. Lizzie Fisher (D-Texas), who gave the keynote at the event, the JROTC Cyber Training Act would affect the 500,000 students at 3,400 JROTC high schools in the US. Currently, only 32% of JROTC high schools and students have access to an AP computer science course. Given that the corps serves as a leadership pipeline to the military and a potential talent pool for both the public and private sectors, it’s critical that these junior reserve officers receive the cyber training needed to defend our national security.

If the program is funded, it will incentivize students who want to study cybersecurity to join the JROTC, thus feeding the cyber talent pipeline. Fortunately, the bill made it into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is a “must pass” bill for Congress. While Congress would still have to allocate funding for the program, the bill is a meaningful step in helping to alleviate the cyber workforce shortage.

Cybersecurity Education & Training Assistance Program Roundtable Forum

Targeted to Hill staff interested in education and cybersecurity, this event was held on Capitol Hill and sponsored by the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center, or NICERC. Funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, NICERC has developed and distributed cybersecurity, computing and STEM curricula currently in use in K-12 education. The curricula are available to and for teachers, thus providing much-needed tools to improve cyber literacy within the education community and enhance cybersecurity education nationwide.

The roundtable at the U.S. Capitol featured representatives from not only DHS but also the North Dakota public school system, where NICERC’s curricula have been in use since 2018, and the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, who now offer a badge in cyber. This roundtable highlighted the critical need to interest girls in STEM and cyber education. Encouraging girls to study cyber will both help feed the talent pipeline and increase diversity in the field.

The cybersecurity talent shortage is a solvable problem – if we enact new policies that not only identify new sources of talent but enable under-sourced talent pools to receive the training needed to excel in the industry. Ten years from now, we shouldn’t hear any stories like the one we heard at Tech+Policy about two girls deciding not to join the Computer Science Club at their school because they were worried about being the only girls in the room. As public affairs professionals, we look forward to helping more clients develop and enact policies that will create change. We’ve admired the problem long enough, and there’s nothing admirable about that.

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RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm providing public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector, and healthcare markets.