IT worker in data center (Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.com)

2019 Government Innovation Awards

Filling the cyber talent pipeline

Barry McIntosh, a cybersecurity expert at the Energy Department’s Savannah River Site, is acutely aware of the challenges the government faces in recruiting and retaining cyber talent. So he seized an opportunity to develop a local pipeline for such workers by creating a cybersecurity program at nearby University of South Carolina Aiken.

Developing the Cyber Degree Program

Savannah River Site, Department of Energy

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University officials sought out McIntosh for his subject-matter expertise and knowledge of the government’s cyber needs. With the encouragement of his employer, he spent several months working with the executive vice chancellor and the dean of the College of Sciences and Engineering to develop a curriculum for the program.

Cyber is now a concentration in the university’s applied computer science degree, with specializations offered in network security, cryptography, ethical hacking, cyber defense, digital forensics and cyber ethics.

McIntosh said the goal is to attract students interested in cybersecurity and offer potential employment opportunities at the Savannah River Site. The Army’s Information Assurance Training Center is located nearby, he added, while the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command also need cybersecurity specialists in the Central Savannah River Area.

That concentration of government operations is drawing private-sector employers that are also looking to hire. Growing the talent pool is the only way the Savannah River Site can hope to refresh an aging workforce and find the cyber workers it needs.

Those efforts need to go beyond a single program, McIntosh said, adding that “SRS, the Army and NSA are all working with local colleges, high schools and even grade schools to develop academic programs that can supply a human talent chain that can support the ongoing missions of this local cyber industry.”

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