We need to address the shortage of cybersecurity talent

There are 80 to 90 million cybersecurity events each year, and almost 400 new threats every minute. As someone who spent nearly 12 years in the technology sector, I know firsthand the cybersecurity risks facing the country.

These attacks cost U.S. businesses hundreds of millions of dollars a year. There is a lot at stake, and the private and public sectors are struggling to build teams of cybersecurity experts to combat these attacks. Just this week, Intel Security and CSIS released a new report surveying public and private sector cyber experts in eight countries. The report found that respondents in all countries said cybersecurity education was deficient, and 76% believe the government is not investing enough in cybersecurity talent.

In 2015 alone, 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. went unfilled. These jobs are high paying, with an average salary nearly twice the national average.

Despite the staggering demand for trained talent, education institutions, particularly at the university level, have failed to respond. Only two of the top ten universities in the U.S. offer a technical cybersecurity undergraduate program. The quality of these programs is questionable, with most cybersecurity professionals agreeing that education programs are not adequately preparing students to enter the industry.

There is an undeniable gap between the skills our country needs and the expertise our young people have when they enter the job market. Bridging this gap must start far before college. Teaching students in middle and high school about the importance of cybersecurity can plant a seed or open doors to an eventual career in the field. At the university level, coordination between employers and educational institutions can help students develop specific skill sets that are in demand.

Closing this talent gap is critical for our livelihood and security, that’s why I’ve long been a champion of STEM education. I will continue working in the Senate to promote policies that ensure the U.S. remains ahead of our adversaries in the battle for cybersecurity.

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