Why business, government, and military officials in St. Louis built one of the country’s first cyber apprenticeship programs.


Tucked away in a suburb of low-slung ranch homes just outside St. Louis, Missouri, Masterclock is more important than its relative obscurity suggests. Many of the world’s top tech and defense firms, such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing, rely on the company, a precision timing device maker, to keep complex systems of networks and devices perfectly in sync. Those big-name connections, combined with Masterclock’s small size, make it a juicy target for hackers.

Cyberattacks on small businesses have increased dramatically over the past five years, and until recently Masterclock didn’t have a dedicated staffer among its 20 employees monitoring the security of its networks and data. It fell victim to an elaborate phishing scam two years ago and lost about $50,000. “We just didn’t have anybody looking for holes,” says CEO John Clark.

Many other businesses don’t have anybody looking, either. As securing networks and information becomes a vital priority across a range of industries, there are more available (and essential) cybersecurity jobs than qualified workers. Between September 2016 and September 2017, 286,000 open cybersecurity jobs were posted in the United States, according to the job market data firm Burning Glass. Globally, experts predict a shortage of 1.8 million cybersecurity workers by 2022.

So instead of competing for a highly paid analyst in an incredibly tight labor market, Masterclock tried an old-time approach that is slowly gaining new traction in some sectors of the U.S. economy: hiring an apprentice.

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