The National Cybersecurity Alliance (NCA) on Tuesday launched a new educational program aimed at improving professional cybersecurity training at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
NCA’s HBCU Career Program includes broad participation from numerous HBCUs, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Dell Technologies, Proofpoint, Quanta Services, and Trellix.
The program aims to equip students with the skills necessary to navigate the job search process for positions in cybersecurity, privacy, and risk, with the goal of building a pipeline of African-American professionals for filling the cyber labor gap.
There is a critical shortage of cybersecurity professionals, with nearly 715,000 vacancies in the United States alone. The program seeks to address the shortage of minorities in cybersecurity: Minorities make up only a fraction of the cybersecurity workforce, with only 9% identifying as black and only 4% Hispanic.
“For the cybersecurity industry to reach its full potential, the industry must find ways to integrate diverse talent into its pipeline,” said Lisa Plaggemier, executive director of the NCA. “This program will tackle this long-standing problem head-on by building bridges between the industry and the untapped talent pools that exist in many HBCUs today.”
The importance of the announced partnership between the NCA and HBCUs cannot be understated in efforts to strengthen African American representation in cybersecurity, said Mark Arnold, vice president of advisory services at LARES Consulting. .
Arnold said HBCUs have traditionally been successful in training students for careers in engineering and science, but in contrast, cybersecurity programs have slowly entered HBCUs’ educational offerings.
“The challenge of creating a pipeline for underrepresented professionals has been impacted by a lack of availability and awareness of cybersecurity programs in HBCUs,” Arnold said. “The NCA initiative will help accelerate the spread of cybersecurity and expand programs to more HBCUs where a wealth of talent awaits tapping.”
Beverly Benson, executive director of Cyversity, added that navigating job postings for cybersecurity vacancies can be a daunting task, even for the experienced cybersecurity professional. Benson said this happens because of the disconnect between the required skills listed in job postings and the actual skills needed to fill the role.
“This disconnect can make people looking to enter the cybersecurity field feel like even an entry-level role is unattainable,” Benson said. “It’s great to see the HBCU career program in place to help their students maneuver through the job search process.”