Developing apprenticeships for cybersecurity

Jon Gustafson (left) of Lockheed Martin exchanges information with attendees at the Workforce Development Institute. (Photos: Matthew Dembicki)

SAN DIEGO — Apprenticeships and cybersecurity are two hot topics in the community college field. Now they appear to be crossing over as some employers look to apprenticeships to develop much-needed talent for cybersecurity jobs. And community colleges are right there to help.

A session at the American Association of Community Colleges’ Workforce Development Institute that examined cybersecurity and artificial intelligence training at community colleges highlighted how major high-tech employers such as Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman are looking to apprenticeships and other work-based learning models to develop skilled workers for their cybersecurity endeavors.

Lockheed Martin, which has 105,000 employees worldwide, recently took inventory of all of its “apprentice-like” training programs as it looks to expand apprenticeships, said Jon Gustafson, economic development lead in the company’s workforce partnerships and incentives program. It found it had 60 such programs, and plans to add 10 more, including one around cybersecurity, which is a growth area for the company. In fact, Lockheed Martin has created a “Cyber Kill Chain” program that basically studies cyber attacks to develop strategies to help clients foil new attacks.

Northrup Grumman also took inventory of its apprentice-like training programs, said Bonnie Zuckerman, who manages the company’s apprenticeships and external partnerships. And it’s also considering cybersecurity apprenticeships. It’s part of Northrup Grumman’s efforts to develop a workforce pipeline that begins learning cybersecurity in middle school through postsecondary education, she said.

Mind the gap

Community colleges are also increasing their cybersecurity training efforts to meet growing workforce demands. One strategy is to upgrade the skills of incumbent IT workers.

In 2018, there were about 768,000 cybersecurity workers, with another 307,000 available cybersecurity jobs, said Casey O’Brien, executive director of the National CyberWatch Center, which is housed at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland. He suggested tapping some of the 6.7 million IT employees and training them with additional cybersecurity skills to fill the gap.

Casey O’Brien, executive director of the National CyberWatch Center, chats after the plenary Thursday at WDI.

O’Brien hopes the center’s newly created Skill Up to Scale Up program can help in that. It focuses on developing certificates — which are more adaptable than degree programs in upskilling workers — that are added into IT curricula, he said. It also plans to add an apprenticeship component.

“We’ve never done much in the apprenticeship space,” O’Brien said, adding that one challenge will be to find enough cybersecurity journeymen to help apprentices.

Although the technical skills are front and center in talks about cybersecurity, soft skills — such as communication — are also important, noted Lee Congdon, senior vice president and chief information officer at Ellucian. Employees must be able to communicate the technical aspects of their work to their team or clients in a way that they can understand, he said.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.