The Biden-Harris administration’s newly released cybersecurity workforce strategy zeros in on the people part of the cyberspace ecosystem, identifying opportunities to build out the cyber workforce ecosystem and better educate Americans on landing cyber jobs.

The administration today unveiled its long-awaited National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy (NCWES), increasing the number of Americans in “good-paying, middle-class” cyber jobs.

“We’re at an inflection point where the United States has an opportunity to do what we do best. And that is to lead and prepare ourselves for the age before us, the digital age,” Kemba Walden, the acting national cyber director, said during a hybrid event hosted by the Atlantic Council.

“Today, the Biden-Harris administration seeks to strengthen the American middle class by bringing more of the workforce into this digital age, to keep the country secure,” she added.

During the early 20th century, the United States underwent an economic transformation that supercharged the American economy, the Industrial Revolution. A core insight relative to the industrial revolution was the highly skilled machinists necessary for the emergence of the automotive industry, Walden explained. This novel vision brought many gains, and the administration aims to do it again by “bringing more of the [middle class] to workforce into this digital age, to keep the country secure.”

“We must equip every American with cyber skills and drastically scale up the cybersecurity workforce,” Walden said. “Filling the hundreds of thousands of cyber job vacancies across our nation is a national security imperative. And achieving this goal will also further reinforce our economic prosperity. One is not exclusive of the other.”

The strategy will generate a new wave of skill-based workers, developing opportunities for Americans to participate in a digitally driven economy. This is increasingly critical as today’s digital landscape is defined by the ever-increasing demand for cybersecurity skills.

In addition, Walden explained that this strategy is a “whole-of-nation endeavor,” which requires understanding that a single entity can do it alone.

“We need to start evaluating candidates beyond those with bachelor’s degrees. Veterans separating from active-duty service, parents reentering the workforce, retiring first responders, and others from varying backgrounds very often have or can easily attain the skills needed to fill these critical cyber jobs. And in many cases, job seekers simply need a skills-based credential to become a sought-after talent,” Walden said.

She explained that employers need to look at the skills people gain from apprenticeships, community colleges, workforce programs, coding boot camps, competitions, and online certifications “as frequently as we look at four-year college education” to build out the cyber ecosystem from the bottom up and middle out.

According to the strategy, the Office of the National Cyber Director plans to collaborate with the private and public sectors to realize the Biden-Harris administration’s vision to ensure cyberspace reflects American values: national security, economic security and prosperity, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, trust in democracy and democratic institutions, and an equitable and inclusive society.

In addition, the strategy seeks to drive outcomes where the cyber workforce is encouraged to continually improve itself through learning opportunities made available by a wide range of contributors.

“We need to ensure that our cybersecurity workforce looks like America. America’s diversity is indeed our superpower. There’s no other country like ours. And we’ve just begun to tap into the capabilities of our full population,” Walden said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.