At a time when the news is filled with allegations that Russian hackers released Hillary Clinton’s more controversial emails before the 2016 election, it is clear that computer education is important now more than ever. Even more concerning are the hacking attacks on key government and commercial computers coming from the likes of Russia, North Korea, China and other countries. We clearly have so much to protect while at the same time, lack the number of computer experts needed to fill the demand for this kind of expertise.
We are open to a “cyber Pearl Harbor,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared in 2012, while Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said that cyberspace is “just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space.” We’ve fallen far behind in educating enough of our students to be prepared to fill all the positions in computer cyber-security that are needed.
More than 209,000 cyber security jobs are unfilled in the United States, and listings are up by 74 percent in the years between 2011 and 2015, according to a Peninsula Press analysis of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The number of jobs in information security is going to grow tenfold in the next 10 years,” said Virginia Lehmkuhl-Dakhwe, director of the Jay Pinson STEM Education Center at San Jose State University, which mentors youth to enter and excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. “We have to do much more if we want to meet that demand, at the university level as well as K-12.”
The lack of commitment to computer science education in our schools is highlighted by the fact that in 29 states, students are not allowed to count computer science class to fulfilling their high school graduation requirements, according to code.org. While there are 559,321 open computer jobs nationwide, only 42,969 computer science students graduated in 2015. It is clear a much stronger commitment to computer education is needed to fill our current and future needs for cyber security professionals.
President Barack Obama recognized this need, and earlier this year called on Congress to allocate $4 billion for computer science education. But Congress never acted on this request nor did it budget the money for computer education.
“The president’s proposals for funding really are requests to Congress, and as we all know in the last few years, Congress hasn’t really been reacting very well to what the president requests,” The Verge reported Hadi Partovi as saying, who is the founder of Code.org, a nonprofit focused on computer science education.
There is progress at other levels, The Verge reports, including $120 million in funding for computer education coming from the National Science Foundation, as well has $17 million in funding from AmeriCorps for teacher training in computer science education. Most support for computer education is coming at the state and local levels. In 2015, 27 state governors called for more funding for computer science education. Many cities are beginning to requre computer science education for all statements, and many states are also adding it to what they require from public schools.
Incoming president-elect Donald Trump recognizes the critical nature of the cyber security threats and has promised to address the issue. Trump has pledged to thoroughly review the threats and to “develop the offensive cyber capabilities we need to deter attacks by both state and non-state actors, and if necessary, to respond appropriately.”
As President, most likely, Trump will also quickly realize the long term national security at the cyber level will require a much stronger commitment to computer science education in general, and cyber security training, in particular. While the new president is likely to call for a public-private partnership to address the issue, it is likely the level of effort demanded will match or exceed what President Obama called for earlier this year. Protecting our national and our economy from the threats will require the increased cyber security expertise.