By James A. Mitchell
What may be one of the biggest emerging careers and sectors in southeast Michigan has been a part of Detroit’s history dating back to when the city was known as the “Arsenal of Democracy” during World War II.
Employment experts said that careers in the defense industry are growing at the same rate as in the civilian world when it comes to fields such as cybersecurity, where more jobs than qualified workers exist.
“The critical nature of cyber security skills and innovative technologies are increasingly in demand,” said Jennifer Tisdale, business development manager at the Michigan Defense Center. “Statistics reflect a negative unemployment rate for these professionals meaning there are more jobs than people to fill the positions.”
The projected upturn in defense-related fields was welcomed by Michigan support industries. According to USAspending.gov there was more than a $1 billion decline in defense dollars spent in 2013 and 2014, which posted a disinvestment of 38 percent in the 13 Advance Michigan counties, and a 3.4 percent overall decline in Department of Defense spending. The reduction of forces in the middle east has resulted in a comparable loss of jobs and contracts, although analysts said that IT, healthcare and other defense-supporting sectors are on the rise.
Tisdale said that demand for high-tech workers in defense mirrors the same needs in the civilian sectors. According to a June 2015 report from Burning Glass Labor Insights, there were more than 3,800 online job postings for cybersecurity positions in the past year, making it one of the fastest-growing fields in a resurging economy. The Michigan Defense Center and Michigan Economic Development Corp. are creating a vocational approach for training in that area.
“This effort is in direct alignment with Gov. (Rick) Snyder’s Cyber Security Initiative to create ‘more and better’ jobs,” Tisdale said.
From June 2014 through June 2015, Tisdale said that nearly 1,000 Information Security Analysts job openings lead the field, with software developers and computer systems engineers also posting substantial growth.
Tisdale said that partnerships with firms including Ann Arbor’s Merit Network – which manages the Michigan Cyber Range – are developing certification courses and companion curriculum for university programs. A framework developed by the National Institute for Cybersecurity Education has been adopted by both defense and the private sector as new fields and careers continue to open.
“Advanced manufacturing and information assurance/security are ever increasing areas of need,” Tisdale said. “The critical nature of cybersecurity skills and innovative technologies are increasingly in demand.”