By Dr. Kevin Harris
Program Director, Cybersecurity, Information Systems Security and Information Technology , American Military University
Recent conversations in organizations of various sizes are looking to address limited numbers of individuals pursuing careers in technical fields. The drastic shortage of workers in the cybersecurity field specifically is alarming, with a 2019 (ISC)2 CYBERSECURITY WORKFORCE STUDY showing over 500,000 jobs in the U.S. alone left unfilled.
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Diversity has been identified as more than a social awareness and morality initiative but a core element of defending critical infrastructures. Corporate inclusion and diversity initiatives should be an integral component of organizations’ strategic plans but the questions remain how can the overall workforce pipeline be increased. One method is cultivating opportunities to engage with youths; encouraging alternative tech careers early, especially in young women and minorities.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in one such initiative hosted by Nashville’s Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency. I, along with individuals from Google and Comcast spent time virtually with students who resided in Napier Place and Sudekum Apartments discussing technical and cybersecurity opportunities.
I was inspired by the strong interest and active student engagement during the presentation, with students’ comments showing passion and desire for additional learning opportunities in the cybersecurity area.
While students’ initial interest may have been the two years of free internet and laptop awarded, feedback showed more – not only did they “learn something” but their interest in technology was improved. Metro Nashville Public Schools’ decision to start the semester virtually as many other districts did provide students another opportunity for exposure to the importance of technology as they learned to navigate online learning.
I look forward to continued involvement with the ConnectHome Program that will deliver a series of Saturday student workshops throughout 2020. This program is one of many initiatives that look to change attitudes about technologies in diverse communities through exposure.
Strong mentorship and experiential learning are additional ways to attract individuals to a fulfilling career specifically for those in communities that may not be as readily exposed to STEM fields. Individually or through corporate partnerships, let’s all make sure tech careers are an option for all.
About the Author
Dr. Kevin Harris is the Program Director for Cybersecurity, Information Systems Security and Information Technology at American Military University. With over 25 years of industry experience, Dr. Harris has protected a variety of organizational infrastructure and data in positions ranging from systems analyst to chief information officer.
His career encompasses diverse experiences both in information technology and academia. His research and passion are in the areas of cybersecurity, bridging the digital divide, and increasing diversity in the tech community. As an academic leader, Dr. Harris instructed students at various types of institutions, including community colleges, HBCUs, public, private, graduate, undergraduate and online. He has trained faculty from multiple institutions in the area of cybersecurity as part of an NSF multistate CSEC grant.