By James Mitchell
Southeast Michigan had once been known as the country’s “Arsenal of Democracy,” a manufacturing center that supported a nation’s soldiers. Workforce and defense agencies envision the region taking the same role as the first line of cyber defense.
And it’s not just the military that ranks information security as a top priority.
“As more things get hacked there will be a huge talent demand,” said Michigan National Guard Brig. Gen. Michael Stone, assistant adjutant for installations in the state.
Avenues for filling that demand – for both a nation’s defense and corporate security – had already been established in the state. Those efforts will continue courtesy of federal defense grants and other investments funneled through existing resources such as the Michigan Cyber Range, founded by the Merit Network in 2012, a secure ‘sandbox’ training ground for tomorrow’s cyber warriors.
“Things will get very complex on the 21st Century battlefield,” Stone said. “Michigan fits as a premiere place: The talent is here, it can be grown quickly and we’ve got the infrastructure to pipeline more people quickly. You can’t win a cyber war if you don’t have a depth of individuals trained.”
Federal and state grants, along with private investments, have provided opportunities including certificate programs at five community colleges in metro Detroit, administered through partners including the Workforce Intelligence Network. A recent $5.9 million dollar Department of Defense grant was awarded to support an Advance Michigan Defense Collaborative, with initiatives that include the pilot of a university-based Regional Cyber Training Center.
While matters of national defense are among the driving forces of these programs, the same need has permeated industries and interests across all sectors.
“The more we become connected there needs to be security conversations and talent needs to be developed,” said Jennifer Tisdale, business development manager for the Michigan Defense Center. “From an economic development perspective there needs to be an approach that’s dual-focused.”
Workforce development, she said, must begin with an understanding of the knowledge needed to maintain cyber-security, coupled with job placement and opportunities for business growth.
“One of the challenges is getting a consistency in how these jobs are phrased,” Tisdale said. “We don’t even have job titles let alone skill sets.”
The needs, however, are clear and present whether with cyber-auto technologies or defense applications.
“The actual security solution is potentially the same,” Tisdale said. “We’re focused on dual-use applications of these technologies and bringing those worlds together.”