Newswise —  The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates there are about 350,000 cybersecurity jobs currently unfilled nationwide. More than 37,000 of those jobs are in California, and that number climbs every day, according to the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

Creating a highly-trained work force to fill those jobs is one of the missions of the California Cybersecurity Task Force, created by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services during Governor Jerry Brown’s tenure.

CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) Program Chair and Professor of Computer Science Michael Soltys, Ph.D., has been tapped to be part of this first-of-a-kind advisory work group, which is comprised of high-level security experts from state and local government, universities, laboratories, businesses and technology companies statewide.

The task force is composed of seven subcommittees, each with a specific goal. Soltys is on the Workforce Development and Education Subcommittee, created to address the widening gap between cybersecurity jobs and qualified professionals to fill those jobs.

“Our aim is to create 50,000 professionals in this state over the next decade,” Soltys said. “We have to bear in mind that it is estimated that of those 37,000 jobs available, about 70 percent require a four-year degree.”

CSUCI generates about 15 cybersecurity specialists a year, he said, which are students who have majored in Computer Science with a minor in Cybersecurity. As an example of how quickly these graduates get jobs, Soltys pointed out that seven of those 15 were hired by Naval Base Ventura County.

The subcommittee’s efforts will be three-pronged. They will: 1) standardize cybersecurity certification; 2) teach the general public cyber-hygiene; and 3) help the military, especially veterans, transition into civilian cybersecurity jobs.

“You want it standardized on one hand and flexible on the other,” Soltys said of the goal to standardize cybersecurity certification across all educational institutions. “Right now the field is really ad hoc and disorganized."

Teaching the public cyber-hygiene means passing along good practices for all computer users, such as how to develop strong passwords, avoiding malware and backing up content, he said.

“Teaching people the basics without becoming security engineers,” Soltys said. “So they know enough to defend themselves against most cyberattacks.”

Helping military transition into civilian cybersecurity jobs will likely provide a wealth of candidates who have learned skills and discipline while on active duty, Soltys said.

“There are a lot of veterans who have done their stint in the Navy and want to transition into a civilian cybersecurity job,” Soltys said. “This is good as many of them have military mindsets and come with security clearance. This is one area where we can help a lot at CSUCI.”

CSUCI’s ongoing collaboration with Naval Base Ventura County gives the University an ideal opportunity to pursue that goal, he said.

Another link with the military will come through Soltys’ recent selection to be a Fellow at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Virginia. For the next three years, Soltys will work on cybersecurity with the ONR for three months each summer.

Finally, CSUCI will provide summer crash courses on coding, cybersecurity and data mining for Navy officers. The officers will come to the campus and take class eight hours a day for five days. 

Much of the subcommittee’s work is still in progress, but Soltys believes this effort can make great strides toward filling the jobs essential to keeping the digital world safe.

 

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