How Michigan can become a leader in cybersecurity education

The Department of Homeland Security projects that by 2020 there will be a shortfall of 1.5 million jobs in the field of cybersecurity. The truth is that Michigan like most other states is falling behind in producing high school graduates with an interest and skill set in the field. The state should adopt the K-12 curriculum proposed by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) to become a leader in addressing what the intelligence community considers one of the country’s most pressing and serious national security issues as well as ensuring that we are preparing students for the job market of tomorrow.

Two weeks ago, leaders from America’s government (DIA, NSA, DHS), private industry, and academic sectors gathered in Huntsville, Alabama for the National Cyber Summit. Among those industry leaders invited to attend was Davenport University’s Chief Information Officer and Interim Dean of Online Learning, Brian Miller.

Davenport University CIO and Interim Dean of Online Learning, Brian Miller

Miller’s invitation came as a result of Davenport University’s status as one of only five schools in Michigan designated as a Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency for cybersecurity. The other four are Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University, University of Detroit Mercy, and Walsh College.

“Attending the National Cyber Summit was an honor, a duty and an educational experience for me and for Davenport University. We know how important cybersecurity is at a national level, but I was somewhat surprised to hear just how big the talent gap is,” Miller explained. “I feel an obligation to our students, and to our country, to try and bridge that gap, and our bachelor’s degree in Cyber Defense is aligned to do just that. We’re very proud to have Davenport’s work in this field recognized.”

Closing the talent gap means doing more even before students arrive at a college or university. NICE provides expert-designed K-12 curriculum from the renowned National Institute of Standards and Technology, co-managed by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education.

Discussed at the summit, several cities are already responding. Huntsville, Alabama has embedded cybersecurity into their K-12 curriculum; as have Fairfax, Virginia; Spokane, Washington; San Antonio, Texas; and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Will Michigan lead with a statewide initiative to adopt unified standards? It wouldn’t be out of line with Governor Rick Snyder’s current cybersecurity vision.

Michigan is a national leader in corporate-private-public cybersecurity collaboration. The state houses the Michigan Cyber Range, a secure, virtual network where businesses have the opportunity to harden their products: an industry term for allowing experts to hack into a system and identify weaknesses and strengths for better security.

The state also hosts the Michigan Cyber Civilian Corps, a volunteer rapid response team of cybersecurity experts available during a declared state of cyber emergency; like a National Guard for the Internet.

As it pertains to Michigan, there are currently well-paying jobs crucial to our nation’s national security available and nobody to fill them. According to a Department of Homeland Security presentation, Miller reports a national average salary of $116,000 for a cybersecurity professional with scant experience. But Michigan lacks the educational infrastructure and curriculum to generate trained professionals to handle these important issues of today and tomorrow.

For Miller, “the data is clear: Cyber defense is one of the most exciting, lucrative and in-demand careers in today’s job market. Generating interest among students in this field should be a standard component of our K-12 system here in Michigan and across the country. By adopting the NICE framework we ensure businesses based in Michigan can find the talent they need, and we ensure our children are prepared for the networked-world in which they live.”