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The program will train the next generation of cyber defenders to protect critical infrastructure.
Siemens Energy, Inc. and a group of non-profit and academic organizations announced a consortium to establish a new industrial cybersecurity apprenticeship program to defend critical infrastructure. The Cybersecurity & Industrial Infrastructure Security Apprenticeship Program (CIISAp) was launched with five other founding members, including ICS Village, Inc., Regional Economic Development for Eastern Idaho (REDI), MISI Academy, Capitol Technology University, SANS Institute, and Idaho State University (ISU), who will collectively design and run an apprenticeship program that links rigorous academic classes and educational training with real-world job rotations at leading industrial companies.
The Memorandum of Understanding aims to prepare the next generation of cyber defenders needed to protect the digitally connected energy systems and critical infrastructure assets from the increasing threat of cyber threats. The four-year program will enable apprentices to apply their technical industrial cybersecurity education with moderate computer skills, and gain the hands-on experience and knowledge needed to fill existing cybersecurity vacancies that currently pay above $90,000 per year. The apprenticeship program is expected to accept its first cohort in fall 2022.
“There is a serious shortage of cybersecurity talent in today’s marketplace across a number of industries, and by working in partnership with likeminded organizations we can make inroads into building a strong workforce for the years to come,” said Rich Voorberg, president of Siemens Energy North America. “Critical infrastructure in the U.S. has digitized rapidly, and we need to move quickly to secure our future.”
The new consortium draws from organizations across the country and is designed to scale to meet the growing need for highly skilled industrial cybersecurity professionals as digitally connected infrastructure – such as energy assets, wastewater treatment facilities, and transportation systems - increasingly serve as the foundation for the U.S. economy and well-paying jobs. Capitol Technology University, based in Washington DC, and MISI Academy, based in Baltimore, will lead the apprenticeship’s Eastern US region, while REDI and ISU will lead the Western US. Nationwide partners, SANS and ICS Village, Inc. will provide additional specialized experiential training options and offer certification pathways to apprentices in both regions.
The current cybersecurity workforce gap comes as threats against critical infrastructure systems continue to escalate with attacks threatening the energy sector and municipal services in the United States in 2021. According to CyberSeek, a project supported by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), the U.S. cybersecurity workforce has only enough workers to fill about 68% of the current demand, with industrial sectors experiencing the workforce gap more acutely.In a recent survey by SANS, half (56%) of companies reported experiencing difficulties implementing existing critical infrastructure security plans due to insufficient labor resources.
Cybersecurity for critical infrastructure differs from cybersecurity for information technologies. Securing critical infrastructure requires defenders to recognize anomalies that could be a sign of a cyberattack in both physical and digital technologies. Currently, there are fewer than ten colleges that have classes covering cybersecurity for operational technologies. The CIISAp apprenticeship program will help meet a growing need for cybersecurity professionals with cross-cutting skills that incorporate the training of a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, and a cybersecurity expert.
The new MOU lays the groundwork for the team that will design and coordinate the apprenticeship program. In the coming months, the consortium will select the companies that will participate in hands-on rotations, and the standards expected from those companies. The consortium plans to announce new private sector, academic, and non-profit consortium members looking to participate in the apprenticeship program ahead of its first cohort class.