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Ohio Innovates and Collaborates to Build Future Cybersecurity Workforce

Education programs and hands-on cyber competitions across the state draw interest in Ohio’s cybersecurity careers

Ted Griffith, managing director of IT, JobsOhioSun Feb 25 2018
Startup in Columbus

In today’s cyber age, businesses and organizations of all sizes face a unique and dynamic threat. Cyberattacks and data breaches continue to grow in number and scale, and highly sophisticated criminals are constantly evolving attack methods, which can have immediate, widespread impact.

In unison with Ohio’s strides toward becoming a national hub for technology advancement, the state is also at the forefront of education and training for the cybersecurity workforce of the future. And there is no shortage in demand; CyberSeek reports that Ohio alone has nearly 7,000 high-paying cybersecurity job openings, and the nation has more than 300,000 open jobs in the field.

Through state-sponsored initiatives, educational institutions and tech-centered businesses, Ohio is seeing a growing and cooperative effort to engage today’s tech-savvy youth, raise awareness of cyber defense challenges and solve the increasing talent shortage.

Ohio hosts 45 higher education institutions with cybersecurity programs, including six designated as National Security Agency (NSA) Centers of Academic Excellence (CAEs). The University of Cincinnati and Cedarville University also make up two of only 20 universities in the country designated as CAEs in Cyber Operations by the NSA. And Ohio’s list of cybersecurity education programs continues to grow.

In March 2018, Franklin University, a leader in educating working adults, announced the development of its new Center for Public Safety & Cybersecurity Education, a state-of-the-art center which will help to address the increasing number of cyber related incidents through high-tech degree programs and training opportunities.

True to the nature of high-tech cyber defense, there are also a growing number of interactive and virtual educational opportunities available to those interested in the career path.

The Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee (OC3), a group formed by the Ohio National Guard following a request from Gov. John Kasich, was formed in February 2017 and has grown to more than 200 public, private, military and educational organizations around the state. The group’s focus is to increase the number of students who pursue careers in cybersecurity through collaborative and innovative education and training.

As one of OC3’s first initiatives, the Ohio National Guard tested a virtual “Capture the Flag” event at Columbus State Community College in December 2017. The hands-on hacking competition pinned teams of high school and college students against each other with the goal of cracking cyber defenses to capture virtual flags, while simultaneously defending their own computers from attackers. More than 60 participants took part in the inaugural competition, and the Ohio National Guard has expanded the initiative across the state, with competitions at many colleges and high schools in the first half of 2018 including Cleveland State University, Ohio University-Chillicothe, and Findlay and Westerville City Schools.

In May 2018, OC3 and the University of Cincinnati opened the first Ohio Cyber Range, a virtual safe space created using computer servers, which will act as a training ground for students to demonstrate skills to protect businesses and government organizations from cyber threats. The cyber range joins only a few others in the country, and OC3 expects to add four more in Ohio by mid-2019.

The Columbus Collaboratory is another example of industry-leading cyber collaboration. Founded in 2014 by seven central Ohio-based industry leaders, the company serves the tech community in the ways of workforce and talent development through a one-of-a-kind cyber rotational program, where participants learn and work with the cybersecurity and advanced analytics functions for each of the seven founding companies and gain a unique perspective of industry-specific challenges and solutions.

These cooperative efforts to build Ohio’s cyber pipeline span across the state. Through the Cincinnati-Dayton Cyber Corridor, educators are provided with resources to better prepare students for cyber careers, employers receive access to high-quality cybersecurity professionals to strengthen current and future cyber workforces, and students get valuable opportunities to explore careers and learn the skills needed to succeed in cybersecurity. There’s also the Northeast Ohio CyberConsortium, made up of large corporations, healthcare systems, academic institutions, and civic and government organizations. The CyberConsortium aims to build a community of Northeast Ohio cybersecurity professionals, develop programming and university-industry collaborations to address regional talent needs and tackle challenges for member companies through threat-sharing and analysis platforms and systems.

As society becomes increasingly devoted to the digital arena, there is no question that cybersecurity professionals will be crucial to our privacy and public safety. Catching up with cybercriminals and the shortage of defenders will be an ongoing effort, but thanks to a focus on exciting and interactive educational opportunities across the state helping to attract young professionals to technology roles, the outlook is bright and hopefully secure for Ohio’s businesses, residents and customers.