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NICE eNewsletter Spring 2022 Industry Spotlight

Digital Cloud Widens Pathways to Cybersecurity Careers

By Peter Meehan, SVP International and Partnerships iQ4 Corp, Co-Founder Cybersecurity Workforce Alliance (CWA)

As of March 2022, the cybersecurity supply and demand website, reports 597,767 cybersecurity job vacancies, with only 1.5% (8,889) identified as open to entry level candidates. Why aren’t employers seeking more career entrants? Is it the pursuit of the “purple unicorn” who has a degree, 5-10 years’ experience, and multiple industry certifications? Or is it due to lack of data showing employers the positive return on investment (ROI) of investing in the next generation?

iQ4 Corp, a technology company focused on workforce skills management and talent development, created its Digital Talent Cloud Platform to accelerate and scale a pipeline of new professional cybersecurity talent equipped with related work experience. This platform combines a Workplace Academy to gain experience, a skills “wallet” to help the learner speed their acquisition of skills and better enable them to showcase their competency to employers, and an Enterprise Platform for employers to align their skills inventory and hiring needs. This can shorten the employer’s time to find, hire, develop and retain a skilled workforce. By addressing the needs of both job seeker and employer, this platform streamlines the talent acquisition and development process. The platform was thoroughly vetted by early adopters, Citi, JP Morgan Chase,  and employers in defense industry base, e.g., Leidos, and  is now attracting new companies to deploy the Digital Talent Cloud. To support the cybersecurity and risk talent supply, iQ4 automated the use of the NICE Workforce Framework for Cybersecurity and its taxonomy for employers to define Work Role profiles for the following purposes:

  • To identify their internal skills inventory, gaps, hiring, and training needs for a role or progression
  • To tap into nationwide talent coming out of grant-funded training and apprenticeship programs, or other sources, and match people-to-skills-to-jobs
  • To enable staff to act as “internal digital coaches” to transition internal or external talent to qualify for cybersecurity, risk or information technology roles

The virtual platform also facilitates access for diverse populations to be upskilled or reskilled. These can include underserved and underemployed communities, including the military (e.g., veterans, spouses, and newly transitioned members of the military) who in turn can help provide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) staff for inclusive diversity of thought and experience.

Additionally, the platform can be part of investments in cybersecurity apprenticeship. The $500-million Good Jobs Challenge grants that support indigenous and regional communities are boosting investment in apprenticeships. iQ4’s virtual apprenticeships were first developed by T-Mobile and the University of Washington Bothell before being used at the University of Cincinnati, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and Clark University, leading to iQ4’s inclusion in several U.S. Department of Labor grant applications across the USA.

Frank Cicio, CEO at iQ4 said, “From understanding the deficiencies in the traditional industry hiring system, our team envisioned creating a Digital Talent Cloud pipeline that would bring together government, education, potential candidates, talent acquisition and human resources, and other employer stakeholders together. Our virtual platform is designed to rapidly accelerate and scale the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, including leveraging the time-honored mechanism of apprenticeships. Our Digital Talent Cloud provides the software infrastructure to automate the discovery, development, and retention of talent. The model enables the movement of labor through markets, impacting a skills currency for a learning and hiring skills marketplace”

Through the industry-mentored Workplace Academy model, entry-level candidates arrive at interviews with 350-hours or more of related work experience. To gain experience, learners undertake a 6-12-week part-time virtual project, working in teams to solve real-world risk problems. Weekly sessions include lessons, assignments, and counseling and assessments by industry mentors. As the model reduces the ramp-up time from hire to productivity by three months or more, it delivers a significant return on investment.

Dug Jones, Workforce Program Director for Clark University says, “We are using our H1B grant for apprenticeships by bringing together Workforce Development Boards, employers, and eligible  people sourced with the help of the iQ4 Cybersecurity Workforce Alliance (CWA). We also leverage CWA’s industry professionals to support the 1,000 pre-apprentices taking the CWA’s Cybersecurity Practitioner Foundation Course. The related work experience and the interaction with mentors transforms participants from being unaware of a cybersecurity career to being inspired to take up a registered apprenticeship.”

Employers benefit by using the model as a prolonged interview, especially if a staff member mentors the cohort and selects candidates. Importantly, Clark University has reporting data required for the grant, including the progression from uninitiated through to apprenticeship completion. He added, “The CWA model dramatically increases our efficiency in delivering apprentices ready for employment, and pathways to highly paid cybersecurity jobs.”

“iQ4 Corp’s Digital Talent Cloud is an exemplar when it comes to cybersecurity skills and talent pipeline development. This systematic bridge from education and diverse talent sources into employment including skills-to-role-matching is vital for employers who want to accelerate and scale the induction of entry level, well prepared, candidates to close their skills gaps.”

James R Stellar, Professor of Behavioral Science, (and former Provost and interim President,
University at Albany, NY.)

NICE eNewsletter Spring 2022

Created April 22, 2022