Investing in Apprenticeships In Cybersecurity Is A Safe Bet

“A long apprenticeship is the most logical way to success. The only alternative is overnight stardom, but I can't give you a formula for that” - Chet Atkins

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Workforce development throughout all of Europe was once centered around apprenticeships. Their apprenticeship concept was a system of training the next-generation in a profession. Training was done as an understudy to one, typically lasting 3 to 7 years. After completion the apprentice would gain professional certification and have the skills necessary to practice with competence.

Modern-day apprenticeships are much more sophisticated than you may believe. Most associate apprenticeships with bakers, bricklayers, tailors, and seamstresses – traditional trade roles. This is not the case. The Midwest Cyber Center (MC²) created a whole new approach to this almost forgotten, yet fruitful path. In 2017, MC² created the third registered cybersecurity focused apprenticeships in the United States.

Just as a traditional trade models were designed, our program combines the three main elements of apprenticeship; curriculum, on-the-job training, and mentorship. We provide 580 hours of online instruction, grounded in cybersecurity best-practices and fundamentals, and coordinate with local employers like Monsanto, Peabody Energy, Centene, and the St. Louis Science Center to complete their 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. This approach equips an apprentice with the skills necessary to excel as a cybersecurity analyst.

We were inspired to create our cybersecurity Analyst apprenticeship program because of high demand from employers for a trained workforce specifically in cybersecurity. According to Cyberseek, an online supply/demand heat map created by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), there are over 3,995 openings for cyber jobs in the St. Louis region.

This number has been multiplying as the St. Louis region grows as a nationally recognized tech hub. With college prices through the roof and graduates not always securing job placement with a degree, apprenticeships offer an alternative solution to filling the workforce with bright, educated, and experienced non-traditional talent. We believe a combination of traditional education and non-traditional programs like ours can meet regional workforce needs in the future.

As early adopters of the apprenticeship model, MC² is not the only organization who has recognized the importance of non-traditional pathways. In 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) has announced $200 million in apprenticeship funding for the fiscal year. This has included a recent $150 million announcement for individual sectors to expand particular focus areas like information technology, manufacturing, and nursing. DOL has also announced another $1 million in funding to target women in apprenticeships focused on those areas of specialties.

MC² has become an advocate for apprenticeship. We have presented our program to the State of Missouri, the Military Defense Communities Summit, New America, and at NICE’s annual cybersecurity conference. Our mission has evangelized to other communities the importance of apprenticeship and brought a positive light to our region. We are in conversations with other cities like San Antonio and Colorado Springs about expanding the model and helping their employers meet future hiring needs. We are confident the model and concept are sustainable and scalable.

At the Midwest Cyber Center, we advocate for the St. Louis region’s cyber ecosystem by leading workforce development, youth education and information sharing initiatives. We believe with our apprenticeship program and the relationship we’ve build with the community we will become the premier cyber center in the country.