Last week we had the privilege to not only attend, but participate as a speaker, in the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) conference in Dayton, OH. It was an incredible event that brought industry, academia, and organizations like ours together to learn and grow. There were many conversations throughout the event on degrees, education opportunities, and regional best practices, but there was a particular topic repeated over and over. APPRENTICESHIPS.

We have all heard or read the statistics; 1.5 million jobs by 2019, negative unemployment for the industry, and many other scare tactics. The harsh reality we are facing is repeating the same thing we have always done to train our workforce just isn’t going to cut it. Nothing will ever replace the value of a college degree, but with a Mount Everest sized gap ahead of us, we need to get creative.

Obviously, I am a bit biased in my philosophy because of our program, but I believe apprenticeships are a real and tangible solution to help fill the talent gap. It isn’t the silver bullet to solve all our problems, but it is a proven model with the backing of the Department of Labor.

Apprenticeship programs have served our country for years. Most of us are familiar with these programs in a trade type of industry like electricians and carpenters, but why can’t we apply the earn while you learn mindset to technical careers. An apprenticeship program, like a degree, provides a core set of classes (online or in-person), and most times, also include industry certifications. Where it differs from traditional programs is they are typically free to the participant and they actually get paid for their time. Seems like a win-win for everyone.

Another term used at the event was “New Collar.” We all know the idea of blue collar and white collar, but what is new collar? According to the CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty, “not all jobs require a higher education.” In fact, 1/3 of all IBM employees do not possess such background. Technology is a skill that can be taught/mastered outside of a classroom and perfected on-the-job. IBM has created several of their own apprenticeship programs and are currently looking at more to add to their repertoire.

Rometty also states, “Most of all, to create new collar jobs we will need new kinds of collaboration – involving federal and state governments, public school systems, community colleges and private business, across multiple industries. We will not always agree, but progress in job creation will come from open discussion and engagement. Together, we must work to reform education, policy and strategic approaches – in the U.S. and around the world – for today’s job opportunities that will build a future of growth and prosperity.”

Believe it or not, but this week marks the 80th anniversary of apprenticeship programs in the United States. There are efforts across our region and beyond happening all week to honor the occasion during National Apprenticeship Week. The Midwest Cyber Center has a full week advocating for our program, but I encourage you to take a few minutes to research our program, research something specific to your industry, or attend a local event. The above link provides a calendar for all those who registered with the Department of Labor.

We are proud to be part of this long history of training our country and excited to see the future of new collar workers join the workforce. We learn more about our program, our candidates, and our employer partners each day, but honored to be progressive thinker who is helping educate this generation of cybersecurity professionals for the St. Louis region.

Happy National Apprenticeship Week!