Thursday, May 30, 2024

Local cyber workforce organization expands cybersecurity diversity program

by BIZ Magazine

CYBER.ORG – a workforce development organization funded by Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) Cybersecurity Education and Training Assistance Program (CETAP) grant – today announced the expansion of Project REACH, a feeder program created to recruit a diverse body of K-12 students to pursue undergraduate cybersecurity degrees and bolster the U.S. cybersecurity workforce.

Following the successful launch of the pilot program at Grambling State University, Project REACH has expanded to ten additional Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that intend to join the national program, including:

  • Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland
  • Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina
  • Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee
  • Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma
  • Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri
  • Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Morris College in Sumter, South Carolina
  • Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia

Project REACH aims to diversify the cybersecurity workforce by ensuring all students have equal access to cybersecurity education. By leveraging CYBER.ORG’s curriculum, students will be exposed to the foundational and technical skills needed to confidently pursue careers in the cybersecurity industry. The onboarding of ten new HBCUs highlights Project REACH’s rapid growth as CYBER.ORG broadens its effort to improve cybersecurity literacy nationwide and provide high school students with better access to cybersecurity education, cybersecurity skills development resources, and opportunities to pursue mentorships and careers in the field. Additional HBCUs are also considering joining Project REACH in the coming months. With CISA’s support, introducing this type of training to K-12 students proactively addresses the lack of diversity in the cybersecurity workforce, exacerbated by unequal access to K-12 cybersecurity education.

“This collaboration between universities and high schools will be critical to solving the cybersecurity workforce shortage and introducing students to cybersecurity careers at a young age,” said Laurie Salvail, Director of CYBER.ORG. “The pilot program at Grambling State University proved to be incredibly successful in partnering with local high schools, and we’re thrilled to be replicating this model to more HBCUs nationwide thanks to CISA.”

A recent EdWeek study revealed students in small and high-poverty school districts are significantly less likely to be exposed to cybersecurity education, resulting in lower-income and minority students having significantly fewer pathways to entry into this critical field of study. By integrating CYBER.ORG curricula within local high school course offerings and increasing interest in enrollment at the local HBCUs, the expanded feeder program will introduce more students to the possibility of cybersecurity careers.

With less than half of all K-12 classrooms across the U.S. offering cybersecurity education, the time is now to provide students with the tools needed to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. By providing K-12 teachers with cybersecurity curriculum and supplemental professional development materials, CYBER.ORG is doing its part to advance cybersecurity education and empower students to grow into the next generation of cyber professionals.  

“This collaboration with CYBER.ORG is essential to providing our students in underserved and military-connected communities with the opportunity to receive cybersecurity education and to explore a cybersecurity career pathway,” says Dr. Kevin Peters, Director of the Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE) at Morgan State University. “By partnering local high schools with HBCUs that have strong cybersecurity education offerings, we aim to provide our students with increased opportunities to pursue cybersecurity degrees.”

“As CYBER.ORG expands Project REACH, we are excited to join the initiative and help students learn how to create lasting careers in cybersecurity,” said Karina Liles, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science Chair and Associate Professor at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina. “Our faculty is proud to head up this program at Claflin University, which will be integral to bridging the diversity gap we continue to see in the industry.” 

With over 700,000 open cybersecurity roles nationwide and an uptick in cyberattacks, it is critical to expand K-12 cybersecurity education and focus on recruiting those from diverse backgrounds to pursue cybersecurity careers. Project REACH, through resources provided by CYBER.ORG, is uniquely positioned to bridge the existing cybersecurity skills gap and help ensure that all students have access to cybersecurity education regardless of background.

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