Cybersecurity jobs more varied, numerous than most think

Tuesday - 11/22/2011, 11:54am EST

Ernest McDuffie, National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

It's a cybersecurity shortcoming that plagues both government and industry: a shortage of skilled workers.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has taken the lead on broadening the pool of skilled cyber employees. It helped launch the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education — or NICE, as it's known.

The agency also partnered with the Education Department and the National Cybersecurity Education Council to promote formal cyber education.

Ernest McDuffie, who oversees the initiative, joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris to provide an update on how the program is working.

The education council was formed about a year ago, McDuffie said, when NICE realized it needed "soldiers on the ground out there in the community," McDuffie said.

The council also includes a coalition of academic institutions, companies and industry groups.

"And it continues to grow every day," McDuffie said. "If you're an academic institution and you're interested in contributing to this initiative or in gaining information from this initiative, then this is the place to be."

One of the cornerstones of the project is identifying the key attributes and competencies of the cybersecurity workforce.

"One of the things that we keep hearing across the country is that there are jobs available in the cybersecurity arena, but we're not finding qualified applicants for those positions," McDuffie said. "So clearly, there's an education and training component that we need to pay attention to make sure that we're producing the right types of workers for the needs that are out there."

To that end, NICE unveiled its Cybersecurity Workforce Framework, which lists 31 key competencies in the cybersecurity workforce. NICE will take public commends on the draft document through Dec. 16, McDuffie said.

While most people only think of those who defend computer networks — which McDuffie called "the classic information assurance role" — the cyber workforce encompasses many more positions, including policy and procurement.

And it's important to start growing the ranks of future cyber warriors now, because the issue of cybersecurity isn't going anywhere, he added.

"I think the issue of cybersecurity is going to be with us for the duration," McDuffie said. "It's one of those fields that continues to change. As technology advances, things that we can't even imagine today will be forefront five years from now."

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily Cybersecurity Update. For more cybersecurity news, click here.

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