One of the greatest threats to our national security is the lack of K-12 cybersecurity education to promote cybersecurity literacy and career pathways. The recent, unprecedented cyberattacks like SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline clearly demonstrate the adverse effects of our national cybersecurity vulnerabilities, which can in part be attributed to our national shortage of nearly 464,000 cybersecurity professionals.
Recently, I testified on this critical issue before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection & Innovation in a hearing on “The Cyber Talent Pipeline: Educating a Workforce to Match Today’s Threats,” where I shared ways in which Congress can expand K-12 cyber education through additional funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity Education Training Assistance Program (CETAP).
Growing the cyber workforce requires educating students on cybersecurity literacy as early as kindergarten. K-12 cybersecurity education plays a fundamental role in helping students develop the skills needed to pursue cybersecurity careers in greater numbers.
Through CETAP, CYBER.ORG empowers students to do just that by providing educators with the training and resources needed to teach cybersecurity confidently. We built a successful educational model so educators can teach cybersecurity curriculum consistently across the nation and students have the skills necessary to meet future workforce needs. Our efforts have reached over 23,000 educators and impacted over 3 million students, with a focus on underserved schools in low socioeconomic regions and programming specific to HBCUs and students with disabilities.
However, it is time to scale to reach saturation in all 50 states and grow the talent pipeline. To increase access to cybersecurity education opportunities for all students, we released the first set of national K-12 cybersecurity learning standards for voluntary adoption to help students build a foundation of cybersecurity knowledge to live, work, and play in cyberspace safely, while also developing the technical skills needed to pursue cyber careers.
But we cannot do this alone. During my testimony, I urged Congress to provide more funding to grow the CETAP program and recruit new talent, which the Cyberspace Solarium Commission also recommended in its report on Growing a Stronger Federal Cybersecurity Workforce.
Congress can also take the following steps to advance the state of K-12 cyber education:
- Increased and sustained funding for cybersecurity education and workforce development. It is critical CISA include funding in its annual budget requests to sustain and expand the reach of the CETAP program in classrooms across the country. CETAP's cost-effective approach will get proven successful curriculum into the hands of more teachers who will continue to develop a strong, equitable pipeline of cybersecurity talent.
- Formally recognize CETAP as the K-12 feeder program for other federal cybersecurity workforce programs. Connecting students directly to programs such as Centers for Academic Excellence, Scholarship for Service, Federal Apprenticeship Program, and others will ensure these federal efforts complement one another and provide the best workforce outcomes possible.
- Give special attention to “what’s next” in academic milestones (K-12, higher education, reskilling, etc.) to better connect students to cybersecurity career opportunities. Addressing this need is a critical step in closing the workforce gap in our country.
K-12 cybersecurity education must be viewed as the vehicle in which we can introduce the next generation of cybersecurity professionals to careers in the field. Through CETAP and CYBER.ORG, DHS has created a proven, cost-efficient model to train educators in cybersecurity and reach more K-12 students in classrooms across the country with cybersecurity curriculum. It is critical that Congress provide additional funding to and investment in the CETAP program to close the cybersecurity workforce gap and grow the cybersecurity skills pipeline.