The Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Consortium, convened by Northern Michigan University in collaboration with industry and education partners, has received two innovation grants totaling $2.47 million through the State of Michigan's Marshall Plan for Talent. It is one of 13 consortia statewide awarded funding to develop talent pipelines for high-wage, high-demand occupations through enhanced education and training initiatives.
Businesses and organizations are increasingly eager to hire employees capable of detecting and preventing costly data breaches, yet there is a critical shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals. According to the annual workforce study by non-profit IT organization (ISC)², 2.9 million positions are vacant worldwide. The U.P. Cybersecurity Consortium seeks to enhance related career opportunities in the region, and the grant will help to accelerate those efforts.
“We're elated that the Marshall Plan for Talent is demonstrating the value of this initiative through its generous support,” said NMU President Fritz Erickson. “We will be able to leverage the new U.P. Cybersecurity Institute on NMU's campus as a shared regional resource for providing career exploration for K-12 school districts, non-credit credentials and cyber certifications to address the workforce gap in this emerging field. The institute also complements NMU's related bachelor's degree program.”
One component of the U.P. Cybersecurity Consortium's initiative involves collaborating with 18 K-12 school districts and four intermediate school districts to expedite students' career preparation through focused programs and a badging system. Industry professionals will help to develop the curriculum for the competency badges and work through the institute to train teachers in five “anchor” school districts.
“Those teachers will then be able to train colleagues at smaller districts in their areas, so it's a hub-and-spoke model we envision,” said Steve VandenAvond, vice president of NMU Extended Learning and Community Engagement. “Students will have an opportunity to complete from one to three badges in a series, enabling them to advance to the U.P. Cybersecurity Institute to obtain industry-certified credentials as a pathway to becoming professionals.”
VandenAvond said there is clearly an abundance of young talent in the region. U.P. schools were well-represented at Michigan's spring Girls Go Cyberstart Competition, endorsed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. And at the 2018 Governor's High School Cyber Challenge in Detroit, three of the top 10 teams were from the U.P., and Westwood finished second. Westwood is part of NICE Community Schools, one of the five participating anchor districts. Others are Marquette, Adams Township, Escanaba and Menominee.
Because cybersecurity jobs can be performed remotely from nearly anywhere, NMU and an industry advisory panel are working to create a cybersecurity ecosystem rooted in Marquette that will branch out across the Upper Peninsula. The goal is to enhance career opportunities for students, displaced workers, military veterans and others who want to thrive in a 21st century occupation while enjoying the U.P quality of life.
NMU alumnus Keith Glendon is successfully doing just that. From his hometown of Marquette, he serves as program director for Worldwide Sales, Strategy and Business Development with IBM Security, a key industry partner. Glendon is a passionate advocate for developing “new economy” opportunities for the region. He serves on the industry advisory committee for NMU cyber education initiatives.
“I'm thrilled that this Marshall Plan award, our U.P. Cybersecurity Talent Consortium and the U.P. Cybersecurity Institute will help thousands of young people launch great careers in one of the highest-demand fields of our time,” Glendon said. “At IBM Security, our mission statement is, ‘We exist to protect the world'. That's truly what this is about: protecting lives, businesses and communities while building talent in our region to support and participate in a huge growth sector. Cybersecurity is a critical component of all modern industries and a core part of the foundation for our future as a tech-based innovation zone.”
“NMU brought together industry experts who shared their needs and the opportunities they can provide for students in meaningful careers,” said Dave Nyberg, director of corporate engagement at NMU. “The geographical disposition of the U.P. that often presents logistical barriers for growth in certain industries actually provides a competitive advantage for cyber and IT companies that embrace a culture of allowing employees to work where they want to live. These grants will enable our consortium to broaden talent development. And in collaboration with our industry partners, Northern will continue to invest in innovative education and training programs."
NMU will help to fund a full-time staff member to coordinate activities at the U.P. Cybersecurity Institute. The Marshall Plan for Talent Innovation Grants will also support a portion of that cost, along with curriculum creation, professional development for teachers, stipends for industry mentors, endorsement/certification fees and equipment for the institute and anchor school districts.