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Thanks to bottom up and top down efforts, St. Louis is quickly becoming one of the country’s top centers for cybersecurity innovation and education. Can St. Louis help fill a global shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals?
According to Tony Bryan, Executive Director of the Midwest Cyber Center, there’s a crisis in cybersecurity caused by a massive shortage of trained cybersecurity professionals, which according to him, is estimated by some studies to be as high as a million and a half unfilled jobs. “St. Louis alone,” he says, “has almost 4,000 unfilled cybersecurity positions.”
“It’s scary. If there’s a void in the marketplace for these skilled positions,” Bryan says, “something is not protected.”
A Cybersecurity Hub in St. Louis
But within the past few years, there’s been groundwork laid in St. Louis to attract new companies and help train and recruit new talent.. As Jay DeLong, managing partner of cybersecurity business accelerator SixThirty CYBER, points out, St. Louis offers the unique combination of ecosystem support and access to a customer-rich marketplace of businesses specializing in defense, insurance, agriculture and healthcare all looking to protect their complex data and information systems.
Besides providing a generous pool of potential clientele, St. Louis also offers newcomers to the cybersecurity space more opportunities for mentorship and engagement with established execs and Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) than other cities with over-crowded markets, such as San Francisco or New York, ever could. Finally, through private and public partnerships, there’s a push towards developing a workforce to fill these roles.
SixThirty CYBER helps cybersecurity businesses develop through funding and focused mentorship. As a result of their strong partnership with the Security Advisors Alliance, a nationwide network of CISOs headquartered in St. Louis, SixThirty is able to provide emerging cybersecurity businesses with the quality connections and guidance necessary for growth and success. Of the eleven startups in SixThirty’s portfolio, three-fourths of them are from outside of the country, with Israel exporting the greatest number of startups. Ultimately, SixThirty CYBER hopes not only to fill the immediate needs of St. Louis companies, but also lure these international companies to establish their headquarters in St. Louis, a strategy similar to BioSTL’s GlobalSTL (whom they’ve partnered with in the past in this area) and the Danforth Plant Center’s approach within AgTech and Life Sciences.
The accelerator has invested in the likes of Silverfort, Reblaze and TrustStamp. The most recent addition to roster is CYR3CON, a firm that combines threat intel and machine learning to stop potential threats early in their tracks. Having initially come to St. Louis from Arizona to participate in one of SixThirty CYBER’s business development programs, CYR3CON will be one of multiple firms to pitch to Venture Capitalists and potential corporate clientele from across the country during a “Shark Tank” style event put on by World Wide Technology on July 26th.
Companies like World Wide Technology offer a full set of services to protect corporate data and infrastructure as well as training to help organizations develop strategies to automate cybersecurity. WWT’s variety of cybersecurity solutions aim to automate and optimize their client’s existing security infrastructure, promising that through machine learning and smart networks, the lack of enough human operators won’t lead inevitably to glaring vulnerabilities.
Cybersecurity Workforce Development
The Midwest Cyber Center, housed in St. Louis innovation center T-Rex along with SixThirty CYBER and other startups, is in its second year of partnering with the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment (SLATE) to run the Cybersecurity Analyst Registered Apprenticeship program. The program targets individuals with little to no experience in the field and aims to close the workforce gap by making certification for cyber jobs more widely available. To encourage the interest of younger individuals, the Midwest Cyber Center will host a free CyberCamp for middle and high school students at St. Charles Community College from July 23-27. In addition to the Center’s efforts, universities like Webster and the University of Missouri-St. Louis also offer courses and programs dedicated to cyber security training and education.
The City of St. Louis has only been supportive of all efforts to carry the momentum in cybersecurity business and workforce development forward. In January of this year, the St. Louis Regional Chamber presented each of these education initiatives with $7,500 each ($30,000 total) to assist with scholarship and programs funding. Much like the rest of the St. Louis community, the Regional Chamber understands that an investment in cybersecurity education today is an investment in the future protection and well-being of St. Louis businesses.