Three ways city leaders can work locally to fuel the talent pipeline in cybersecurity

The demand for talent in the cybersecurity sector is growing exceptionally fast after 2020 breaking records for data loss in security breaches and the number of cyber attacks on businesses and government agencies. According to Cybersecurity Ventures’ 2019/2020 Cybersecurity Jobs Report, the world is preparing for 3.5 million vacancies in the industry this year. Of the candidates who apply for these positions, less than one in four are qualified, according to the MIT Technology Review.

To influence this issue, state and city members should equip themselves with knowledge of what resources and partnerships are available. Local chambers can be a good place to start to gather this knowledge. Chambers need support and resources for the companies in their community looking to hire cybersecurity professionals as well as those facing a cyber attack. Closing the talent gap requires in-depth knowledge of cybersecurity staff, available training and education resources and gaps, and an understanding of what local partnerships are available to overcome these barriers in a cost-effective manner.

Below are three actions that made Colorado Springs, Colorado, a success and that city guides across the country can also implement to strengthen the cyber pipeline.


Partnership with local institutions

Connecting with local colleges, universities, and business leaders is a critical aspect of building a network for cybersecurity talent.

Start in the K-12 area and educate students early on the importance and benefits of a career in cybersecurity. Programs can be added in-school to teach cybersecurity skills that allow students to graduate with a certification in cybersecurity (think Comp TIA Security +) or college credits that can be incorporated into a two- or four-year study program . Funding after-school cybersecurity clubs and STEM / robotics programs to encourage students to pursue interests in these areas. One example is the new e-sport Drone Soccer, which is finding its way into US schools. Atlanta-based US Drone Soccer has partnered with the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver to launch its premier league. Coronado High School in Colorado Springs serves as a test pilot, incorporating the STEM strategy into the overall sixth- through twelfth grader curriculum. Responsible control, maneuvering and information gathering by drones is a major concern of the cybersecurity community.

Universities offer cybersecurity-specific degrees in multiple disciplines at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as cybersecurity internships and training courses that enable local businesses, including the defense industry, to gain hands-on cybersecurity experience while assessing the skills of these students. This has been a successful way of creating security reviews for interns so they can move into a position as a defense contractor after graduation.

An example of an educational pipeline for employment in this growing industry is Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC). Students can articulate their Cybersecurity Associates of Applied Science (AAS) degree in an algebra vice-calculus-focused cybersecurity undergraduate program, the Bachelor of Arts in Applied Science (BACS), at the University of Colorado Springs (UCCS). UCCS provides grants and cybersecurity benefits to the large Colorado Springs military population. Colorado is heavily invested in its cybersecurity talent pipeline, as evidenced by a $ 6 million grant to fund a Colorado cybersecurity education program. UCCS also received a $ 5.5 million grant to help expand 30,000 square feet of its cybersecurity building with labs, classrooms, and collaboration spaces due to open next year.


Unlock the transition of talent from the military to the civilian workforce

Not all cybersecurity professionals require a four-year degree. When military personnel leave the service, they may have the skills required for a job in IT or cybersecurity, including a pre-existing security clearance that is often required for high-level positions in the industry. For veterans moving with a background in cybersecurity, the combination of a security clearance and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification will make them a highly sought-after asset.

The Pikes Peak area is fortunate to have a large and highly skilled population in transition from veterans with five military establishments in the area. Military members across the country can take advantage of the SkillBridge military program, which allows them to use the last six months of active service to take part in training / education programs to prepare for careers outside the military.

Veterans often turn into entrepreneurs, looking for scholarships or enrolling in a specific educational program like SecureSetor ACI Learning, and delivering successful cybersecurity training courses in Colorado Springs. City guides can work with local veterans groups to ensure that cybersecurity training programs and vacancies are visible and available to that community.


Promotion of workshops and business development centers

Encouraging entrepreneurial workshops and programs to support cybersecurity professionals interested in starting their own business enables new talent to break through barriers. In addition, small business professionals need help understanding the impact cybersecurity is having on their business and customers. There are unique programs such as the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center, which participates in the North Star National Cybersecurity Program of the American Small Business Development Center. One program, Cover Your Assets, helps small business owners learn the basics of cybersecurity.

Our county HR center – the Pikes Peak Workforce Center – also prepares a range of cybersecurity training courses for individuals and businesses. These courses are offered in partnership with Murray Security Services, a local training provider with a global reach that demonstrates the importance of partnership in every aspect of the talent pipeline.

Local universities and colleges can be encouraged to work with middle and high schools to teach students how to code and show what careers are available in the cybersecurity world. Afterschool workshops can also be funded on site in order to strengthen young talents.

Working with different communities and strengthening the programs available help build a strong talent pipeline in cybersecurity – an industry in high demand. To learn more about how Colorado Springs is building a talent pipeline and how to recreate the model in your community, contact us at the Chamber.


Vincent Persichetti is the operations director and director of cybersecurity programs at the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC. Prior to joining the Chamber and EDC, he served 30 years of active service in the United States Air Force and retired as Chief Master Sergeant. He spent most of his career in Air Force Communications, where he focused on IT and cyber systems support.