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With cybersecurity one of the most challenging issues today, there’s a growing market need for experienced cyber professionals. Secondary schools are stepping up to try to meet this challenge with a greater emphasis on science, technology, education and math (STEM) education, but more could certainly be done.

As our world continues to advance technologically and we rely more and more on the “Internet of things,” cyber professionals trained in cutting-edge technologies will be critically important to keep our security assets safe and identify potential areas of risk.

Our economy relies on the use of Internet-connected systems for everything from the free flow of capital to goods and ideas. Government entities, international financial institutions and global trade and commerce all rely on a cyberspace that is efficient and secure. With instances of cyber terrorism on the rise, well-trained security professionals are badly needed.

We currently have a workforce gap when it comes to cybersecurity professionals. According to the security company Symantec, a staggering 300,000 cybersecurity jobs in the United States are unfilled, and 60,000 of them could be filled by individuals without a four-year college degree.

This deficiency comes at a time when we’re facing an unprecedented number of data breaches and cyber threats, where approximately 552 million identities have become exposed worldwide as a result. To address this gap, Symantec has made its commitment to action with the Clinton Global Initiative to provide cybersecurity training and internships to underserved youth in order to create a robust, diverse workforce through a program called the Symantec Cyber Career Connection. It is hoped its commitment will spur more of these programs for workforce training in the cyber field.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has taken a leadership role in addressing this issue, as well. PwC has launched a program called “cyber boot camp” to transition service members and veterans with IT, intel or communications experience to become cybersecurity professionals with the global professional services firm. This is an admirable approach to addressing an industry shortage by hiring and retraining our nation’s veterans.

Additionally, universities across the world have launched cyber programs in response to this need. Many major U.S. universities now offer top-ranked programs — like Harvard, Georgetown and New York University, as you would expect — but also the Dakota State University in Madison, S.D., which offers one of the first-of-its-kind doctoral programs for cybersecurity.

No matter where you are in the world, a mega metropolis or rural America, academic institutions are taking note. There are programs from the United Arab Emirates to Argentina and beyond, with offerings both in person and online. Our internationally connected, knowledge-based economy is creating jobs and letting us safely use technology. Universities far and wide are training the next generation of security professionals, and the industry is lucrative.

However, as demonstrated by the programs of Symantec and PwC, you don’t have to be a Harvard grad to become a cybersecurity expert. There’s an opportunity to learn at all levels. By focusing on STEM education in schools, the seed can be planted and students can go on to choose vocational training with classes on networking, system configuration and maintenance, or an undergraduate degree in system design and encryption.

We must do all we can to ensure these programs are taken advantage of. The first step to keeping our cyber networks secure is more trained cyber professionals, and soon.

Rick Berry and Javier Ortiz are partners at Falcon Cyber Investments. They wrote this for InsideSources.com.

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