Attracting students to the cyber industry has been a priority for years, but efforts have lagged to meet the growing demand.
A current shortage of between 350,000 to 650,000 cyber professionals is estimated by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It is not getting better.
Thinking differently on how to develop that workforce, a new Tulsa program launching in the fall targets older workers from under-represented groups.
The Cyber Skills Center — a project of Tulsa Community College, Tulsa Innovation Labs and other partners — will be a free training course for workers with at least five years’ experience in any field.
That works well for people looking for a change or wanting to move into a more lucrative industry.
There is a lot to like about this program, and it is impressive how many groups have taken a piece of it to work collaboratively.
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The 24-week program offers a paid internship and placement into a job. Or students have an option to continue their education, bridging credits into a related college degree. Those include an associate degree through TCC or a bachelor’s at the University of Tulsa School of Cyber Studies or Oklahoma State University Spears School of Business.
The first cohort of students will mostly come from referrals from area nonprofits with workforce specialties. It isn’t necessary to have any IT experience. The program believes the training works and that motivated people can learn new skills.
There will be two tracks, one for cybersecurity and the other for data analytics. The boot camp-like courses will be provided through a partnership with edX, a global online learning platform from 2U Inc.
For those wanting to go right into the workforce, the partner Skillstorm will place the student in a paid 10-week apprenticeship and then help with landing a job.
Classes will be offered at times convenient for working parents. Support services like child care and transportation will be available through resources supported by the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
While this is open to anyone, the program is specifically recruiting from minority groups. Information technology fields have been dominated by white men, and the cyber specialty has been particularly bereft of diversity.
In cybersecurity, about 79% are men and 73% are white, followed by 9% Hispanic and 8% Black, according to the career resource website Zippia, which analyzed census and labor data.
The salary for cybersecurity analysts is an average of $86,037, with a starting wage of $64,000. The top 10% of cyber wage earners get $115,000 or more.
For workers who feel trapped in lower-wage jobs, this kind of opportunity is life-changing. This is the kind of innovation and relationship building that will make the city a better place to live.
We applaud the effort it took for the coordination and planning among these different groups. It’s a well-organized program that has great potential for Tulsa’s future.