Universities are Helping Close the Diversity Gap in Tech with Cybersecurity Certifications and Accreditations

2021 gave the world a crystal clear realization about several topics; Though just as volatile, Meme stocks proved to be short lived, unlike cryptocurrency; NFT’s and the METAverse will forever change our financial and social culture; Cyber Attacks are a permanent reminder of how the world has shifted.

Related: Cybersecurity Training for Veterans: Jumpstarting a New Career

From SolarWinds to the Colonial Pipeline cyber attack, the record breaking number of cyber attacks in 2021 proved to be a daily infliction of pain upon the world’s businesses, government infrastructures and national security measures. The field of cybersecurity has traditionally been a niche professional field that was relegated to entities with true stakes at risk, like the military or airlines.

That has all changed and even home PC users and their personal information is at risk of being hacked.

Jobs in information security are projected to grow by 31% over the next decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the next decade as demand for IT talent increases in both public and private sectors.

The Center for Cyber Safety and Education reports that there is a growing gap between qualified cybersecurity professionals and job openings that need to be filled. Their research projects 1.8 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs this year.

Cybersecurity Skill Training Opens the Door to Careers, Further Education

With access to cyber range training environments, industry experts, and professional guidance, students can develop their strengths while gaining valuable hands-on experience. These types of courses can lead to internships and job placement opportunities upon graduation. 

With many programs offering advanced cybersecurity courses, graduates leave school fully equipped with knowledge on how to protect their organizations from cyber crime. Universities are beginning to outreach to communities that have been drastically underserved to give them access to these training environments: starting with people of color.

Close the Diversity Gap in Tech Starting in the Cybersecurity Workforce

According to an article published by GovTech, of nearly 50,000 employees at Google in 2014, 83% were men, 60% were white, and 30% were Asian. Only 2.9% were Latino and 1.9% Black. The numbers have stayed similar over the years and across the tech industry.

The good news is that there are many organizations working to make the tech industry more diverse and inclusive including the cybersecurity industry.

Freada Kapor Klein is a founding partner at the venture capital firm Kapor Capital who’s been advocating for increasing diversity in tech for decades.

“There are a lot of hard and fast numbers you could use to set the goalposts,” Kapor Klein said in an interview with GovTech. “But (tech companies) aren’t even in the parking lot — they’re so far from the field they need binoculars to see them.”

The problem, according to Kapor Klein’s estimation, is not one of education but rather access and support. A number black tech professionals agree that reliance on personal relationships for granted opportunities produces an unspoken network effect which militates against Black and Latino inclusion.

Universities can provide this support by offering vocational training to give people of color access to the skill without having to go through traditional education avenues. They do not have to enroll in a full course, rather they can train in cybersecurity courses specific to their career choices.

Companies Need to Open Their Doors to Diversity

The number of people in color in leadership positions is shockingly low according to GovTech:

“The percentage of Black employees at major tech companies remains low: 2.9% at Salesforce, 3.8% at Facebook, 4.4% at Slack, 4.5% at Microsoft, and 6% at Twitter. Lyft and Uber’s workforces are 9% and 9.3% Black, respectively, but that skews heavily toward their lower-paid operations teams. Apple’s workforce is 9% Black, but that includes retail employees. Amazon, which employs nearly 800,000 people around the world, mostly in its low-wage warehouse and logistics jobs, has a workforce that’s 26.5% Black as a whole, but only 8.3% Black among managers.

The number of Black people in leadership or highly compensated technical roles is lower still. For instance, at Google, only 2.6% of leadership and 2.4% of technical workers are Black. At Facebook, Black people make up only 3.1% of those in leadership roles and 1.5% of those in technical roles.”

As universities equip communities with skills companies need to break the status quo. There needs to be a proactive push to eliminate biases people in power have in hiring. We know that these companies have many roles to fill and they are missing out on a huge population of viable candidates because of a gatekeeper mentality that shuts out people of color.

IT Security Course Outlines and Offerings Prepare Students for a Wide Range of Jobs in the Industry

Cybersecurity is not only a technical field; it also requires strong administrative and business skills. There are many different areas of expertise in this industry, so there are opportunities for everyone interested in pursuing a cybersecurity career.

Interestingly, a lot of cybersecurity jobs don’t require a technical degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 46% of cybersecurity jobs do not require a college education at all. In addition, only about 30% require degrees in computer science or information technology with another 20-30% requiring related degrees such as math and statistics.

However, universities need to train students on specific skills so they can adapt quickly when entering this field and be successful from day one. With access to introduction courses through reputable academic university accreditation programs, more people will have an entryway into the field. 

University of Texas San Antonio is Leading the Way

Higher education institutions are looking to train their students with the skills needed in order for them to be successful within today’s digital workplace. To entice students into their cybersecurity programs, institutions are investing in new spaces equipped with cutting-edge education technology.

One of the most common additions to these spaces are cyber ranges, designated areas where students can simulate cyberattacks to practice the skills they will need to protect their future employers’ networks from intruders.

Cyber Range Solutions and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have invested in just that. Guy Walsh, executive director of the National Security Collaboration Center at UTSA, said in an article published by GovTech, that attacks from global adversaries is a large focus in the cybersecurity industry.

“A lot of our success [as a nation] is about research and innovation,” said Walsh. “If those are just taken by countries like North Korea and the People’s Republic of China, you can see that it’s very difficult to compete.”

UTSA has partnered with the U.S. Military, the Department of Defense, and NSA to develop cyber defense education and research to accelerate the recruitment of future cybersecurity leaders.

In the face of evolving threats and increased pressure to perform, UTSA is working toward a more holistic approach that considers how digital security fits into other disciplines like engineering or business. Walsh believes it will help ensure America’s future competitiveness on par with countries such as China.

Explore Cyber Range Solutions for information about the types of cybersecurity degree programs that are available including online courses and other turn-key cybersecurity programs for your university.

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