U.S. Innovation and Competition Act: A Critical Moment to Empower the Workforce of the Future

U.S. Innovation and Competition Act: A Critical Moment to Empower the Workforce of the Future


by Kevin Nolten, Director of Academic Outreach

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Cyber Attack

U.S. Innovation and Competition Act: A Critical Moment to Empower the Workforce of the Future

By Kevin Nolten, Director of Academic Outreach


The nation-state driven SolarWinds intrusion and recent Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack has made it clear that we must better invest in our future U.S. workforce to ensure we are better equipped to deal with emerging technological threats.

The inclusion of an effective education model for industries of the future must be a critical component of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. The bill presents a tremendous opportunity to include an effective education model designed to help train the future workforce in critical aspects of emerging technology.  

The K-12 cyber education model created by CYBER.ORG for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA)’s Cybersecurity Education Training Assistance Program (CETAP) program has a history of demonstrated success in advancing K-12 cybersecurity education. This model should be co-opted to help develop the workforce pipeline for industries of the future critical to national security, including AI, synthetic biology, quantum information sciences, and manufacturing.

Replicating the CETAP education delivery model for other cutting-edge areas in STEM is needed now more than ever. Our nation is facing a tremendous shortage of skilled professionals to outfit the nation’s industries of the future. There is an urgent need to fill the workforce pipeline with students who have advanced scientific and technological skills and plan to pursue careers in emerging technology.

Addressing this means increasing foundational scientific and technological awareness at every level of education, from kindergarten to post-graduate degrees. This can be done if we co-opt the CETAP model to expand K-12 education in critical industries of the future.

Created in 2007, we identified a need, specifically in K-12 education, for a systematic and integrated solution that would build the foundation for educating the next-generation, cyber-literate workforce. CYBER.ORG was created to implement to engage K-12 students in STEM, computer science and most importantly, cybersecurity. Since then, we have implemented an integrated curricular experience across multiple academic disciplines through the development of project-driven, hands-on curricula; established programs and competitions; and delivered educator professional development.

As a result of critical funding and support from DHS through the CETAP grant, CYBER.ORG has built a K-12 cyber education program with age-appropriate content that aligns with state standards for education in 25 states and counting. More than 21,000 teachers are currently enrolled in CYBER.ORG’s content platform and over 12,000 teachers are trained to use CYBER.ORG content for cybersecurity education.

CYBER.ORG has also impacted student achievement and interest in STEM and cyber career pathways. In a Louisiana study, high schools that had teachers enrolled in CYBER.ORG curricula on average sent four times more students into cyber-related college of university degree programs as those that did not.

The CETAP model and CYBER.ORG have provided a clear blueprint for bolstering the U.S. workforce pipeline for other areas critical to U.S. economic development and global technological competitiveness.

Members of Congress should consider deploying the CETAP model for industries of the future in legislation and across the whole of the federal government. This will provide K-12 students with the curriculum and training needed to pursue degrees in higher education and careers in industries of the future. There are multiple legislative vehicles that are ripe to include such a proposal, including the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, NSF for the Future Act, or Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Appropriations. Advancing our U.S. competitiveness in technology requires an investment in our future leaders.

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