By Kevin O’Rourke
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez visited Montgomery College in Germantown, which recently received a federal grant to lead a consortium of 14 Maryland community colleges, in partnership with 37 employers, to build career pathways for cybersecurity and information technology jobs.
The $15 million dollar Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant is one of 70 awards – totaling $450 million – that the Department of Labor announced in September.
To learn first-hand how the grant is helping equip students for cybersecurity jobs that are locally available, Secretary Pritzker toured the school’s cyber laboratory with Montgomery College’s President Dr. DeRionne Pollard before participating in a roundtable discussion with representatives from Maryland’s community colleges, state and local officials, and employers serving as partners through this consortium.
During the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker emphasized that skills development is an important issue for America’s workforce and businesses. Secretary Pritzker has made job-driven training a top priority for the Department of Commerce for the first time. Across many different industries, from manufacturing to cybersecurity, jobs are going unfilled because employers can’t find workers with the skills they are seeking. In fact, there are currently about 210,000 open and unfilled cybersecurity jobs across the country, according to the Commerce Department.
Cybersecurity is a threat not just to national security, but to America’s businesses and economy at–large. During the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker emphasized the Commerce Department’s key role in addressing the threat of cybersecurity. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is one of Commerce’s bureaus, advances cutting-edge technology and industry standards and has conducted cybersecurity research for as long as there has been cyberspace. NIST has worked with the State of Maryland and Montgomery County on projects designed to secure electronic health information; protect assets in the financial services sector; and defend our energy infrastructure.
In addition, NIST has partnered with other federal agencies on NICE – the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education. Among many actions, the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework provides the standard lexicon for community colleges and industry partners on the vocabulary of the cybersecurity field, the curriculum for cybersecurity courses, and descriptions of positions in this sector. NICE is also partnering with the private sector to develop an interactive U.S. map that shows where cybersecurity job openings exist, identifies the skills required to fill them, and shows training programs available to job-seekers.