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U.S. Government Doubles Down On Infosec Training With NICE Initiative

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

Under the auspices of the U.S. Government's National Institute for Standards and Technology, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) aims to remake information security education at all levels—kindergarten through post-bachelors.

If there's one technology area that's truly "future-proof," it has to be information security. Known in government circles by a variety of monikers, including information assurance, cybersecurity, cyber defense, and more, future projections for job opportunities and skills gaps in IT show enormous job opportunities and even bigger demand in this field. Looking out to the start of the next decade (2020), as many as 1.5 million jobs in this field may go unfilled [Read more about that here: Information Security Jobs (And Salaries!) See A Dramatic Rise].

The U.S. Government is more than an interested bystander in this situation, in part because of its leading role in our national defense, and in part because it is among the largest employers of IT talent around. That probably explains why the National Institute of Standards and Technology (a leading source for IT policies and standards for the U.S. Government, including security standards, also widely followed and adopted at lower state, county, and municipal levels of government around the country) is spearheading NICE: the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education.

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Understanding The National Initiative For Cybersecurity Education (NICE)

NICE is a new initiative to remake cybersecurity education at all levels. K-20 is one way they describe it, but it actually goes to K-26 if you want to throw in the many post-bachelors programs starting to appear under NICE and also under the NSA umbrella through the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance(IA)/Cyber Defense (CD).

The NICE homepage presents its strategic plan (dated 2015) that defines a vision for "a digital economy enabled by a knowledgeable and skilled cybersecurity workforce." The mission of the initiative is "to energize and promote a robust network and an ecosystem of cybersecurity education, training, and workforce development."

Some of the values defined in the strategic plan include challenging assumptions of current infosec training and workforce approaches, embracing change in order to disrupt the status quo and stimulating innovation by experimenting with new approaches to information security education. The initiatives main goals are to:

  • Accelerate information security learning and skills development
  • Nurture a diverse learning community
  • Guide career development and workforce planning

NICE Resources For Infosec Training And Education

In November, 2015, the organization held its 6th annual NICE conference in San Diego, CA, where it put on two full days of seminars, keynotes, panels, and training sessions. The full collection of those presentations is available online here, and includes a raft of interesting and valuable content for those interested in information security training and education. Some of the most interesting sessions, included the following:

As you can tell, the session included a nice mix of topical coverage, curriculum directions, and methods and measurement and assessment techniques to make sure the curriculum is on target and working as it should. Given the impending shortfall of qualified information security professionals, and the growing demand for same, it's nice to see this group tackling the problem of attracting, training, and developing the right kind of workforce to plug the skills gap that looms ahead. This stuff is definitely worth keeping an eye on and digging into, for IT professionals in all areas of the field.

The NICE initiative has undertaken an important and challenging mission, but one that is essential to our ongoing ability to establish and maintain proper levels of information security. There are plenty of opportunities for interested professionals to roll up their sleeves and get involved. I'm going to be looking into this, and suggest that you do likewise. 

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