The old saying “it takes a village” definitely applies to cybersecurity education. There are a lot of teachers, coaches, and institutions involved at every step of the educational pathway, which can lead to a lot of silos and unknowing duplication of effort.
At a time when the need for skilled cybersecurity professionals has never been greater, it’s critical that everyone is on the same page about achieving systemic change. Keith Clement is perhaps the perfect person to help make that happen.
Clement is a professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno. He also serves as California Governor’s Cybersecurity Task Force, Workforce Development and Education Subcommittee Chair. He came to cybersecurity through the similarly “emerging high need areas” of homeland security and emergency management.
He has designed model curricula, academic standards, and much other educational programming. Professor Clement received a Scientific Leadership Early Career Faculty Award from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and ran a California State University Faculty Affinity Group, CSU Council for Emergency Management and Homeland Security (CEMHS) for eight years.
“Cyber is also a newly emerging specialization and we need to make a solid connection,” Clement said. “I am a connector of people and organizations in the public and private sector, including nonprofits and education/higher education communities at all levels of education.”
Technology also runs in Clement’s family. His father was a programmer and systems analyst and his family owned a TRS 80, one of the first personal computers to hit the market.
Clement has developed the California Cybersecurity Career Education Pipeline and Pathway Project (CCCEPP), an initiative to prepare 50,000 qualified cybersecurity professionals for the State of California between January 2020 and December 2030.
He was inspired to get involved in the effort to improve cybersecurity education after seeing a lack of coordination and facilitation among key partners and major stakeholders, including out-of-date college course materials that were not preparing students for what industry will require of them.
“Industry and tech are moving so far forward so quickly that the education community and our programs can’t keep up,” Clement said. “We are very behind. I’ve seen syllabi that haven’t been updated in years and looks like they belong in the museum.”
To meet the CCCEPP’s goals, Clement said cybersecurity education needs to start in earnest as early as middle school or younger and continue through a bachelor’s degree or higher. Along the way, students need to supplement their education with apprenticeships, professional certifications, and other hands-on experiences.
The approach also calls for increased focus on extracurricular activities like cyber competitions and calls the process of giving them more weight in the educational process a “serious overhaul” to the status quo.
“People who do competitions and leagues are better able to make the connection between the classroom and real-world experiences,” Clement said. “We call competitions essential to the process.”
Clement hopes phase 1 of the CCCEPP’s work (cyber programs from middle school through a bachelor’s degree) will be implemented by 2021. Efforts to expand to elementary school and post-baccalaureate degrees will occur in phase 2.
Though there are a lot of moving parts to make these large-scale changes happen, Clement said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I do hear the word ‘tenacious’ a lot and that I’m not inclined to take no for an answer,” he said. “It’s all a matter of time and organization and putting in the sweat equity. I want to be considered part of the network linking pulling all of these people together across California and getting them on the same page.”