Vice President Joe Biden announced $25 million in grants to invest in cybersecurity education at historically black colleges and universities Thursday. The Department of Energy grants were announced at Norfolk State University, which will lead the Cybersecurity Workforce Pipeline Consortium.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe joined Biden, as well as Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) and other officials, at Thursday’s visit.
Interos Solutions, Inc. CEO Jennifer Bisceglie was a key speaker during a roundtable discussion with cybersecurity leaders at the university. Last May, Gov. McAuliffe named Bisceglie to the Virginia Cyber Security Commission.
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama discussed the growing presence of cybercrime threats and the increased demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals. Such threats have been in the spotlight in recent months following a massive hack at Sony Pictures and, just this week, an attack on U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts.
According to a press release from the White House, some estimates find the demand for cybersecurity workers is growing 12 times faster than the overall U.S. job market. The problem is, Biden said, that too few students, particularly women and minorities, are pursuing degrees in the field to meet the demand.
“We can’t afford to have a gigantic chunk of the population – women and minorities – left out of this opportunity,” Biden said.
Part of the goal of the consortium is to diversify the pipeline of talent in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.
“Cybersecurity is a multi-disciplinary field and our educational system needs to reflect this. In addition to the STEM educated, we need to be able to communicate with the general public as to their role and their responsibility to impact cybersecurity in our country. Without this general discussion, we will never gain the momentum, security impact, and economic power we should possess in the U.S.,” said Bisceglie.
Biden also pointed out that the average starting salary for someone new to the cybersecurity workforce is $86,000.
“This is an absolutely burgeoning field. It has enormous potential for any student from any neighborhood, from any school, if they are just aware of what the opportunities are,” Biden said.
In addition to NSU, the consortium includes 12 other historically black colleges, two national research labs and a K-12 South Carolina school district. Grant funding, which will be spread over a five-year period, will be used to purchase computers, connecting students on other campuses and internship opportunities, Biden said.
Watch video from Vice President Biden’s visit to NSU: