Skills-First for Cyber

Can apprenticeships help more workers without degrees land good cybersecurity jobs?

The White House leads by example on cyber jobs while prodding the private sector on skills-first hiring and job training, like new apprenticeships from Per Scholas. Also, philanthropy’s role in closing AI’s understanding gap, new AI training from Google, and research on the ROI of nondegree credentials.

Learn-and-Earn for Cyber Careers

Demand for cybersecurity workers is outpacing supply, with a 20% jump last year in North America’s cyber workforce shortage and an estimated 500K unfilled jobs in the U.S. As a result, some employers are experimenting with different ways to recruit and train cyber workers, including those without four-year degrees.

The federal government is seeking to lead by example. The Office of the National Cyber Director this week announced a skills-first overhaul of the hiring process for a majority of the federal IT workforce—nearly 100K current roles.

The White House also hosted a meeting this week to encourage the private sector to make similar moves while trying to diversify a cyber workforce that is heavily white and male. It highlighted 30 companies and organizations that have dropped four-year degree requirements while expanding the cyber-talent pipeline through apprenticeships, scholarships, and job training.

“Skills-based hiring and quality job training programs, including earn-and-learn registered apprenticeship programs, will help us build the workforce that the cyber industry needs,” said Neera Tanden, a domestic policy advisor to President Biden.

Cisco, Entergy, Merck, Verizon, and Union Pacific Railroad were among those that got a nod from the Biden administration. So did Per Scholas, a nonprofit tech training provider with a strong track record and ambitious plans for growth.

Per Scholas, which offers tuition-free IT career programs, this year launched a cybersecurity apprenticeship it registered with the U.S. Department of Labor. The group seeks to enroll 40 apprentices by the end of the year, with a goal of training 5K cyber learners during the next five years. Per Scholas also is an apprenticeship partner to other organizations, including Colorado’s ActivateWork, serving as both a recruiter and training provider.

“Apprenticeships are not internships,” says Alanna Hughes, senior vice president of strategy and innovation for Per Scholas. The group’s apprenticeships combine training, paid work, and industry credentialing. 

With a growing footprint of more than 20 U.S. markets, Per Scholas has flexibility with the geographic location of apprenticeships. And it taps labor market data to help determine where to focus. Hughes says employers should view the new apprenticeship program as a lower risk investment in talent development.

“Registered apprenticeships do not have to be bureaucratic nightmares just because they are more structured,” she says. “We make it easier on the employer to take advantage of the perks by managing the administrative pieces.”

Industry Partners: The nonprofit has experience working with a large company on cybersecurity. In 2016, it teamed up with Barclays to jointly create a curriculum for cyber training. The bank so far has hired 65 Per Scholas grads for tech roles.

Barclays has been impressed by the level of talent coming through the program, says John Kenny, the company’s vice president of citizenship. 

“By working with Per Scholas, we have been able to bring in individuals with a diverse set of life experiences,” says Kenny, pointing to the value of diversity of thought for cybersecurity teams. “Per Scholas also works really hard on soft skills, which we’ve seen to be hugely helpful for graduates to hit the ground running.”

He says the training program’s demand-led approach, with a curriculum informed by employers, means Barclays knows graduates are equipped with the right technical skills.

Per Scholas plans to extend this philosophy to its cyber apprenticeships, Hughes says, by offering customization and employer-exclusive cohorts of apprentices. “The greater the number of apprentices an employer can take on, the more customizing we can do,” she says.

The Kicker: Per Scholas is “creating opportunities for individuals who previously may not have had these types of doors open to them,” Kenny says.

Foundations and AI’s ‘Understanding Gap’

Philanthropy could play a big role in determining whether lower-income students and workers benefit from generative AI tools, according to a growing number of experts.

Accessibility may not be the biggest equity challenge with AI, says John Bailey, a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who is tracking the technology’s development and influences.

“There’s an understanding gap in how to use these tools. It’s just such a different paradigm than what we’re used to,” he says. “Philanthropy can do a lot of good by funding pilots and experimentation—they really just need people to play with this.”

Open source and free versions of AI may not cut it for students, Katy Knight, executive director and president of the Siegel Family Endowment, said during an interview for the next episode of The Cusp, a podcast from Work Shift

“How are we making sure that we're not just giving kids in under-resourced schools the free version of a tool and all they ever know is it's a magic black box,” she asks, while “then giving another set of young people access to understand how the box was built and what’s actually inside of it?”

Google just rolled out two workforce initiatives aimed at making AI training universally accessible.

Grow With Google released a “product agnostic” online course to teach workers foundational AI skills, AI best practices, and how to use the technology responsibly. Google AI Essentials follows Google’s recently launched Generative AI for Educators. The new $49 course is taught by company AI experts and can be completed in less than 10 hours. (Let me know what you think if you take it?)

In addition, the company’s philanthropic arm has created a $75M fund to back workforce development and education organizations in the U.S. The grants will support no-cost AI skills training for rural, underserved, and public sector workers, as well as students and educators, small businesses, and nonprofits. Two examples of organizations Google is funding are Goodwill Industries International and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. 

“No single employer or policymaker will be able to modernize workforce programs on their own,” says James Manyika, Google’s senior vice president for research, technology, and society. 

Manyika shares the cautious optimism of David Autor, an MIT economist, who thinks AI might benefit the middle class. But that scenario will require serious money from philanthropies and unusual cross-sector coordination.

“We are committed to collaborating across industry, civil society, and government to ensure the opportunities created by new technologies are available to everyone,” Manyika says.

AI’s Impacts on Education and Work

It’s hard to sift through all the noise on generative AI. But these three new reports may be worth checking out:

A top finding in the seventh annual AI Index Report from Stanford University’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence is that AI makes workers more productive and leads to higher quality work. However, the tech trails humans on complex tasks like competition-level mathematics and visual commonsense reasoning and planning.

If deployed well, AI can help address major challenges for global education systems, according to a report from the World Economic Forum. The tech’s potential solutions include personalized learning, refined assessment and decision-making, alleviating administrative burdens for educators, and opportunities for teaching both with and about AI.

Organizations primarily plan to reinvest the savings from generative AI into innovation and improving operations, found the latest quarterly survey from Deloitte. However, workforce access to approved tools remains low. Deloitte recommends that organizations create a center of excellence for generative AI to help reduce barriers to scaling.

Open Tabs

To prepare enough Americans for semiconductor manufacturing, the U.S. needs to rapidly expand community college training, high school vocational programs, and apprenticeships, write journalists from The Washington Post and Marketplace. Yet an industry hiring drop-off is undermining training programs, like Maricopa Community College’s 10-day course for technicians. Enrollment in the course has dropped, and it won’t be offered this summer.

Degree Requirements
Clean-energy jobs are more likely to be high quality compared with the overall labor market, but most of those jobs are in occupations that require a four-year degree, according to a new data project from the Urban Institute. Women and people of color also are underrepresented in the potential clean-energy workforce. However, most high- and medium-quality jobs in renewable energy generation and green construction do not require a bachelor’s degree.

Class of ‘24
The job market for graduating college students remains steady, with a modest rise in entry-level job opportunities compared to last year, according to Revelio Labs. Likewise, students who are completing four-year degree programs are optimistic about their job searches but worried about finances and the economy, found a survey from Handshake. These students also are applying to fewer tech jobs and more government jobs.

Career Education in California
Student enrollment in career education pathways in California’s K-12 schools jumped to 23% last year, up from 18% six years ago, Carolyn Jones reports for CalMatters. Since 2015, the state has invested more than $3B to expand career education, creating robotics labs, welding shops, and film studios. With a new master plan for career education, Governor Gavin Newsom is seeking to preserve spending as state budget cuts loom.

Career Advising
About 80% of faculty members say they integrate career readiness into their courses, but many say they lack relevant labor market data, according to a new report. Less than half (44%) of faculty regularly provide career advising to students in their field. The researchers—from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, American Association of Colleges and Universities, and Society for Experiential Education—recommend greater coordination between faculty and career centers.

Job Openings
The presidential candidates offer stark differences in addressing labor market challenges, Harry Holzer writes for the Brookings Institution, which just held an event on the presidential election and economic development. Trump would likely emphasize tax cuts and deregulation along with restrictions on trade and immigration. Another Biden term would allow more time for place-based industrial policy” and its skill-building components.

Job Moves
Nathan Schultz, Chegg’s chief operating officer, will succeed Dan Rosensweig as the company’s next president and CEO.

Higher Learning Advocates has been renamed Today’s Students Coalition. Tanya Ang, the group’s managing director of advocacy, will succeed Julie Peller as the coalition’s executive director.

The next episode of The Cusp podcast drops soon. Let me know what you thought about the first two episodes, and who I should interview next? —PF