National Science Foundation
Cybersecurity Readiness Coach National Consortium Proposal Overview

Students click HERE to sign up for updates.

In an effort to address the human factors constraining the diversification of the cybersecurity workforce, the National CyberWatch Center in partnership with a network of minority-serving higher education institutions proposes developing Cybersecurity Regional Education Alliances for Developing Young Professionals (Cyber-READY Professionals Consortium). 

Why are we doing this study?
A recent study supported by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program found that many students are failing to develop proficiency through their cybersecurity courses (Tobey, O’Brien & Grissom, 2021). Previous studies of STEM education have also found that most students fail to master instructional material unless they can receive personalized support for learning (Bloom, 1984; Khan, 2012). These studies suggest low conative readiness–the mindset (Dweck, 2006), motivation (Kusurkar, Ten Cate, Vos, Westers & Croiset, 2013), and learning orientation (Bardach, Oczlon, Pietschnig & Lüftenegger, 2020) required for academic achievement–among cybersecurity students. Low conative readiness increases failure rates among students lacking mastery of prerequisite concepts in computing and information technology, i.e., their cognitive readiness to succeed. This effect is most pronounced among underrepresented populations already disadvantaged by bias and under-resourced preparatory education that can lead to learned helplessness (Peterson, Maier & Seligman, 1993). Consequently, many students in community colleges serving populations underrepresented in the IT and cybersecurity profession may lack the readiness to fully engage in learning activities. The result is low retention, completion, and professional certification rates. 

Accordingly, the talent shortage is most acute in economically disadvantaged communities lacking robust critical infrastructure. While cybersecurity talent development programs, such as the Scholarship for Service program, are providing talent to government and major corporate centers, rural and intercity communities lack the talent needed to identify vulnerabilities and mitigate threats. Accordingly, cyber attacks are exposing these weak links in the chain. For example, the large-scale attack on the Colonial Pipeline was launched by compromising a single user’s inadequately protected remote VPN account. Therefore, national security depends on raising cybersecurity capability across the nation, not only in major metropolitan centers. 

The National Science Foundation has provided much support to raising instructional capacity through institutional and teacher mentorship programs. The growth in the number of community colleges receiving the CAE-2Y designation attests to the high return on investment from these grant programs. However, there has been limited to no investment in providing comparable support services to students.  

Cyber-READY Professionals Consortium Participants

  • Education institutions hosting a Cyber-READY Professionals chapter
  • Educators and practitioners serving as a Cyber Readiness Coach
  • Learners seeking career opportunities in IT and cybersecurity who require assistance to raise conative and cognitive readiness to succeed 
  • Employers, small and medium sized businesses, and grassroots organizations needing cybersecurity talent or cybersecurity services

What are we asking of you?  

  1. Identify the individual(s) that would authorize your organization to participate in this type of project.
  2. Identify educators, practitioners, employers of cybersecurity talent, and clients for cybersecurity services in your local area that would be interested in participating in this project.
  3. Attend an informational online meeting to learn more about the program

What are we proposing to do?

The Cyber-READY Professionals Consortium will create a network of work-based learning sites centered at community colleges in partnership with industry and regional universities. The Cyber-READY program will enroll cybersecurity students in a cloud-based co-curricular instructional system that continually assesses conative readiness and improves cognitive readiness to succeed. A virtual mentor (CRC) will be assigned to each student to collaborate with their faculty instructors to raise success rates of cybersecurity students in institutions primarily dedicated to populations underrepresented in the cybersecurity profession. The CRC will apply formative assessments to construct individual development plans and coaching services needed to prepare students for one of several career pathways. The first and primary pathway (see graphic) will prepare workers to perform entry-level IT roles, rotate into mid-level IT roles, and then advance into cybersecurity feeder and specialist roles. 

Success of the Cyber-READY program will be determined by: (a) number of students entering cybersecurity programs that demonstrate mastery of prerequisite capabilities; (b) student progress through cybersecurity programs as demonstrated by achievement of formative credentials (e.g., badges) and summative credentials (i.e., degrees and certifications); and (c) hours of student engagement in service learning activities. The latter goal will be specifically addressed by developing a residency program through which students will progressively increase the responsibilities they perform in a rotation of internship and apprenticeship positions. Students in the Cyber-READY Residency program will serve: (a) grass-roots organizations; (b) faith-based organizations and coalitions; (c) small and medium sized business and grassroots organizations involved with historically African American fraternities and sororities known as “The D9.”

This program will be launched in SP23. 
Students click HERE to sign up for updates.