Cybersecurity. Is It For You?

With record-high job losses in Anne Arundel County, residents must reinvent themselves in order to return to the workplace. Many jobs that were based on our consumer-driven economy are gone and will not return, leaving many to question “Where do I go from here?” The recent announcement that Fort Meade will become the headquarters of US Cyber Command is the newest development placing our region as the national epicenter of cybersecurity activities. Our job market is changing. This provides an opportunity for many workers in Anne Arundel County to invest in a new and promising career.

No other nation is more dependent on the Internet than the United States, which means we are extremely vulnerable to cyber warfare. The military and private sector companies are now hiring cybersecurity professionals to keep up with rising cyber crime. The military created US Cyber Command at Fort Meade, slated to be fully operational by October 2010, to address this need. The new cyber commander, Army General Keith B. Alexander, recently said the goal of cybersecurity is to “significantly improve the way we defend ourselves in this domain.”  Cybersecurity is a growth industry in Anne Arundel County and provides a tremendous opportunity to get our residents back to work.

The state’s CyberMaryland publication reports Maryland has one of the highest concentrations of technology-related jobs in the country, and half of those are in information technology (IT). Here in Anne Arundel County, we see the same trend. Yet the need for more qualified cyber workers has left hundreds of good cybersecurity jobs in the area unfilled. At our One-Stop Career Centers, we are seeing a new kind of job seeker: a skilled worker, but without the right skills for these available jobs.

Of the fastest growing occupations today, including cybersecurity, 75% require more than a high school diploma, and almost all of the emerging career fields require a strong understanding of technology and computers. Training is definitely required, but a cybersecurity career is more accessible than you think. Our region has the best training resources to help residents benefit from the surge in cyber careers.

Job seekers can begin their cybersecurity career pathway with minimal training. Stackable certifications allow entry at different levels into the Information Technology workforce, based on the degree of one’s computer knowledge. Job seekers can immediately begin training in Microsoft Office Applications or A+ certification and gain entry-level jobs. IT professionals with a higher skill set can earn additional certifications towards cybersecurity while working in the field. These include Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and GIAC Security Leadership Certification. Security clearances are not required for all cybersecurity jobs, as the field transcends industry lines.

Post-secondary schools recognize the emergence of cybersecurity and have come together through CyberWatch, a consortium intended to increase the quantity and quality of the cybersecurity workforce. Area community colleges and universities now offer traditional, online, and hybrid courses in cybersecurity to fit the needs of a diverse student body. Job seekers can obtain certifications or degrees to begin and advance their cybersecurity career. At Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation, in partnership with area colleges and businesses, we help workers make the transition. We provide workshops in basic computer skills that can serve as a foundation for a cybersecurity career pathway. In addition, we offer support through job search assistance and training funds for eligible individuals to obtain the skills needed in this emerging industry. One-Stop Career Centers located throughout the county are available to help residents utilize this growth and return to the workplace.

The workforce opportunities in our county are changing; and they require a higher skill level than before. Cybersecurity is our region’s future, and our workers in Anne Arundel County must be poised to meet the challenge. Our citizens need to be ready, equipped with the skills this industry needs. By the time cybersecurity at Fort Meade and surrounding areas becomes well-established, our workers could gain certifications that fit their skill level and be equipped to meet incoming employment opportunities with the ability and confidence to succeed.

Kirkland J. Murray is the President and CEO of AAWDC. AAWDC provides workforce and training services to Anne Arundel County citizens and businesses. For more information on programs or services, visit www.aawdc.org.

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