Cyber Companies and Universities Are Building ‘Cyber Talent Hub’

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Cyber firms will make practical training on their technology available to students in an attempt to address a skills shortage. The effort comes as fears mount that global competitors like China are outpacing the West on talent

Cybersecurity companies, investors and universities are collaborating to build a platform that would connect students with private-sector employers in hands-on training on the companies’ own technologies.

The effort is aimed at addressing a dearth of cyber professionals—around 600,000 positions in the U.S. alone are unfilled, according to industry surveys. Job seekers, however, are often stymied by excessive requirements for entry-level jobs, including demands for experience typically gained after years in the industry.

The Cyber Talent Hub, as the new platform will be called, will allow companies worldwide to post custom content allowing students to train on specific technologies they are likely to encounter in their careers. It will be launched at the end of this year.

“It’s really the idea of applying almost a gig-economy concept to this cyber-education problem,” said Dave DeWalt, managing director at cyber venture-capital firm NightDragon LLC, which is leading the project in partnership with education technology firm ThriveDX Group. Students will get free access to courses designed for specific jobs, giving them the hands-on skills needed to land a job after graduation, he said.

“You don’t necessarily take someone out straight off the theoretical path; you need the practical experience,” said Jesper Trolle, chief executive of Paris-based cybersecurity company Exclusive Networks SAS, a founding partner of the platform. The idea is that the platform will eventually create qualified candidates for roles such as security operations center analysts, sales representatives or incident responders, he said.

The Hub’s announcement comes as concerns grow in both the private and public sectors that the U.S. and allied nations are falling behind global competitors such as China in building the next generation of technical workers, particularly in cybersecurity. On July 19, the White House plans to hold a summit of cyber companies and experts to find new ways to build a sustainable cyber workforce.

Several other initiatives have been announced by the private sector in recent months related to cybersecurity employment, among them raising money to pay for courses at Bay Area community colleges, and sending private-sector experts to teach at historically Black colleges and universities. Meanwhile, some companies are abandoning traditional degree requirements and launching apprenticeships for people switching careers to cybersecurity.

“We’re not going to solve the problem collectively if we just keep approaching the problem in the same way,” said Barbara Massa, executive vice president and chief of business operations at incident-response firm Mandiant Inc., which is also a founding partner of the platform.

The company will contribute materials from its Mandiant Academy courses, she said, and plans to use the platform to recruit candidates who will be familiar with the company’s tools and able to staff its response jobs.

Four academic institutions—New York University, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin—will be part of the initial launch.

“I think education must change from an ivory tower to an active player in solving problems. Having a hub that brings together education partners, companies, policy makers and learners is important because cyber is a major challenge,” said Martin Ihrig, an associate dean of NYU’s School of Professional Studies and a clinical professor.

The platform’s other founding partners include general companies like Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. and Marsh to cybersecurity firms including Carahsoft Technology Corp., Kyndryl Holdings Inc. and Ingram Micro Inc.