Carrier Management
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EP. 49: Building the Workforce of Tomorrow with K-12 Cybersecurity Education

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Cybersecurity is becoming more important in an increasingly digital world, and experts agree that good cybersecurity starts with a good education. As the use of technology and tech platforms becomes more widespread and interconnected, guests on this episode of The Insuring Cyber Podcast said that the earlier, the better when it comes to educating students and future workforce professionals about cybersecurity.
“These students are going to become the workforce of tomorrow, and we all know how critical cybersecurity has become to businesses all across the United States,” said Laurie Salvail, director of CYBER.ORG, an academic initiative of the Cyber Innovation Center. This is a nonprofit organization that works to accelerate technology, research, and development and foster a knowledge-based workforce that can support the growing needs of government, industry, and academic partners.
As the workforce changes with older professionals retiring and younger professionals taking their place, Salvail said it’s important to make sure students see a career path in cybersecurity.
“Our young students are dreaming about their future careers, even in Kindergarten,” she said. “It’s important to share these new careers with our students and empower them to gain the skills needed to fill these open positions.”
Maxine Bulmer, vice president of Consulting Delivery for the Cyber Security Consulting and Engineering Sector at CGI UK, agreed.
“Cybersecurity is part of everything we do, and absolutely, I think that begins with our youngsters … it doesn't become an add-on. They just use it as part of their everyday activity,” she said. “It’s really great that that young age group now sees there’s not just having an interest in cybersecurity, but they can make a career out of it as well.”
Salvail said this awareness starts from the top down by making sure teachers have knowledge of cybersecurity that they can pass on to their students.
“We've noticed that cybersecurity can be a confusing word for teachers all across the United States,” Salvail said. “Everyone has the ability to learn how computers are interconnected, and we all need to know about the various threats and how to protect ourselves online. So really just helping teachers understand, for the particular age group of students they teach, what is cybersecurity, what does it look like, and how can we easily have these discussions in every day life [is important.]”
Another way that CGI UK is working to excite students and professionals alike about cybersecurity is with its UK Cyber Escape Experience. Bulmer leads the team developing this initiative -- an escape room that seeks to educate about cyber risk and response. Built inside a 40-foot shipping container, it has plans to tour the UK, stopping at CGI offices and client sites. Teams of up to six work together at CGI Cyber Escape to discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish cyber related tasks to progress and escape within a 30- or 60-minute session. Tasks are aligned to different security learning objectives, and after successfully escaping, participants receive a handout with the learning outcomes, further information on security, and an escape certificate.
“It's geared around maybe what people might find familiar in their home or in their office or in their school, and it helps people think about being safe online,” she said. “It’s also about physical security -- the environment that you find yourself and how to be aware of who should or shouldn't be inside.”
She said the need for more education around cybersecurity for children as young as kindergarten through high school became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns when schools shifted to online learning.
“If we take ourselves back to the pandemic, where our world changed, it became quite evident quite quickly that when a lot of our children moved to online learning and were doing school education at home, it was really important to us that we made those students and those organizations -- families as well – [understand] how important it was to be safe online,” she said. “And it has become apparent that as children go through their education, they are taught about using IT and the applications and the tools that are there to help them do their work and research as part of their lessons.”
For students and teachers alike, as well as other workforce professionals, Salvail added that this will likely continue to be the case as the world is becoming more digitally focused.
“You have to be brave, right? And kind of willing to learn,” she said. “We must have that growth mindset in ourselves, that we're trying to instill into our students, that we can learn these skills to help empower our students in this growing world around us and ever changing environment.”
To find out what else Laurie and Maxine had to say, check out the rest of this podcast episode and stay tuned for new episodes of The Insuring Cyber Podcast publishing every other Wednesday along with the Insuring Cyber newsletter. Thanks for listening.

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