It’s no surprise that cyber security ranks at or near the top of career fields experiencing strong and growing demand. Digital security specialists are needed to enhance existing IT departments while also emerging with newly-created, high-priority jobs in response to increased awareness of the vulnerability of digital assets.
Educators and workforce experts heard a battle cry of sorts in October when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder hosted the North American International Cyber Summit in Detroit, during which corporations from all sectors shared ways to resolve the problem – and safeguard company information.
“There have been so many incidents of hacking they’re calling it a ‘velocity of attack,’” said Alan Lecz, Director of Washtenaw Community College’s Advanced Transportation Center. “A ‘Velocity of response’ is recommended to combat it.”
A resurging economy doesn’t fully explain the growth in terms of job numbers. In southeast Michigan alone nearly 10,000 cyber-security and related positions were posted in 2014-2015, according to research conducted for the Workforce Intelligence Network by Burning Glass Technologies. More than 6,000 of those were for Computer Systems Analysts, and postings for Information Security Analysts topped 1,000.
Both job titles – and others like it – are expected to continue climbing. Lecz said that the pipeline is a challenge to keep filled, even with starting salaries that typically exceed $50,000 and can top six figures with experience. Two-year and certificate students are finding themselves employable, and Washtenaw and the ATC are among those currently developing cyber-security certificate programs for 2016 introduction.
“This fits under the umbrella of IT jobs, and the demand is really high across the region and country,” Lecz said. “We hope to offer skill certificates and eventually a degree program.”
National standards and certifications are frequently revised to accommodate new technologies, but the IT-based fundamentals remain. The sensitive nature of the work requires equal attention to non-technical skills.
“We can train anyone to run a tool,” said Keith Nabozny, who serves as advisor for Macomb Community College’s Network Security Professional Program. “What brings value to students is an understanding of what the information means – is it a serious threat? – and being able to communicate that information.”
Nabozny said a revamped certificate program was introduced at Macomb in fall 2015, the courses a blend of the latest technologies and conventional training. Two-year students are positioned to obtain one of several industry-accepted certifications en route to continued studies for advanced degrees.
“We’re focusing on classical, hands-on, real-work skills used by security professionals,” Nabozny said. “It’s more than just using a scanning tool to run a report; it’s having students who can analyze that information. Employers like workers who have experience, certifications and are working on their education.”
Nabozny noted that the number of postings for cyber-security staff will not only increase but continue spreading across all sectors at every level.
“Every organization, from a small independent retailer on up to GM, needs to understand their exposure to different problems,” Nabozny said. “A security professional can help them solve that. This is a broad area where one employee can bring great value to a company.”
Written By: James Mitchell