The U.S. departments of Labor and Commerce have announced a new plan to promote registered apprenticeships in the cybersecurity industry.

Called the 120-Day Cybersecurity Apprentice Sprint, the plan aims to support numerous industries’ use of Registered Apprenticeships to develop and train a skilled and diverse cybersecurity workforce. It feeds back to a White House initiative to meet the industry’s talent needs and to connect underserved communities to good jobs.

The Commerce Department is pitching the plan as critical in improving the nation’s economic and national security cybersecurity apparatus. It’s claimed to ensure that enough applicants are qualified and prepared for cybersecurity careers.

The cybersecurity industry is facing a critical shortage of workers, with hundreds of thousands of vacancies currently available. In recruiting employers, industry associations, labor unions, educational providers, community-based organizations and others to establish Registered Apprenticeship programs, the government aims to deliver more significant numbers of qualified cybersecurity workers to fill the currently unmet need.

“The Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Sprint will help build employer-led partnerships that will meet the industry’s need for talent and allow Americans to access quality, high-paying jobs,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement Tuesday. “By using the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education Workforce Framework for Cybersecurity, employers will ensure that all apprentices benefit from a standardized approach to cybersecurity education and training.”

There are currently 714 registered apprenticeship programs and 42,260 apprentices in cybersecurity-related programs. The ultimate aim is to fill nearly 700,000 open cybersecurity jobs across all industries.

“The cybersecurity apprenticeship sprint is a creative initiative which will encourage a swath of new talent into the cybersecurity workforce by bootstrapping highly visible and valuable work experience, and by focusing on inclusivity and diversity as a primary objective,” Casey Ellis, founder and chief technology officer at crowdsourced cybersecurity platform company Bugcrowd Inc., told SiliconANGLE today.

Michael DeBolt, chief intelligence officer at cybercrime intelligence firm Intel 471 Inc. was likewise positive, calling the scheme “a very promising step in the right direction to help both sides of the equation: the busy employer occupied in the fight against cybercrime and the aspiring cyber security professional looking for entry into the profession.”

“All reasonably minded employers agree that we can only win this fight with fresh, creative minds and diverse backgrounds and perspectives,” De Bolt added. “But this requires investment in time, money and energy. So often these resources are directed toward tangible things that provide the clearest, safest and quickest path for return on investment, such as the newest technology or the proven senior analyst who can hit the ground running.”

Sounil Yu, chief information security officer at cyber asset attack surface management company JupiterOne Inc., noted that the critical workforce shortage in cybersecurity continues to threaten our ability to properly defend our digital ecosystem and way of life.

“Leveraging the successes we have seen in other job markets, we should examine which of our unfilled cybersecurity jobs can be addressed through vocational training and adapt our hiring practices to enable a similar scale to address the shortfalls in the job market.” Yu said. “At the same time, we should team up with cybersecurity-focused vocational training and education programs that equip a wider range of job seekers to qualify for these opportunities.”

Photo: Steve Snodgrass/Flickr

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