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Report: Despite USM successes in producing cyber grads, demand growing

University System of Maryland vice chancellor for economic development. (Maximilian Franz / The Daily Record)

University System of Maryland vice chancellor for economic development. (Maximilian Franz / The Daily Record)

The University System of Maryland and its member institutions have done a good job of graduating students for the cybersecurity workforce, but more work will have to be done to meet labor demands in a rapidly expanding field, a report released Thursday found.

The report from the Business Higher Education Forum found that Maryland is a leader in cybersecurity, but to meet future job demands the workforce must become more diverse and more qualified.

“Employers in the region consider it particularly difficult to find qualified candidates for cybersecurity jobs compared to other roles within their organizations,” the report said. “This challenge is partly rooted in the level of education and experience that are typically listed as minimum qualifications for cybersecurity positions in the region.”

According to the report, 84 percent of cybersecurity job postings in the Washington metropolitan area require at least a bachelor’s degree and 84 percent require three years of relevant experience.

Last year, there were 40,000 cybersecurity job postings in Maryland, and that number is expected to grow over the next several years.

The state has done a strong job of producing bachelor degrees — 10,000 degrees in cybersecurity or related programs have been conferred since 2015.

But the qualification requirements can often push talent out of the region, the report found.

Instead, the report proposes, University System of Maryland schools should provide more work and learning experiences so students can gain work experience while receiving their degree.

“(University System of Maryland) reframed this challenge as an opportunity to create new undergraduate pathways into cybersecurity that attract students with diverse backgrounds and interests, engage them in meaningful learning experiences that reflect the cutting edge of the field and encourage them to stay in the region to build their careers,” the report said.

Some opportunities include the system’s partnership with MITRE Corporation, the designation of all five of the system’s cybersecurity programs — at the Baltimore County, Bowie State, College Park, Towson and University College campuses — as National Centers of Excellence with the National Security Agency.

Last week, Gov. Larry Hogan and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County announced a registered apprenticeship program for cybersecurity that will allow apprentices to earn college credit while working.

“These kinds of programs are the way we’re going to … outperform some of our peer markets,” said Thomas Sadowski, the system’s vice chancellor for economic development.

Improving diversity in the cybersecurity field will also be key to meeting the demands of the workforce, the report found.

The university system has sought to respond to those imperatives as well. One of the system’s cybersecurity programs is at Bowie State, an historically black college. And the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is one of the nation’s top producers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees to minors.

“UMBC’s Meyerhoff Scholars program is viewed as a national model for increasing diversity in STEM fields, and the university drew on lessons learned form that model when it launched the Cyber Scholars program in 2013,” the report said. “The program … focuses on preparing women and members of other underrepresented groups to lead the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.”

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