Apprenticeship Program Aims to Fill Open Jobs in Cybersecurity

Apprenticeship Program Aims to Fill Open Jobs in Cybersecurity
Lee Watson, executive director of American Cyber Alliance (Jason Burt)

Two new Little Rock technology organizations have partnered to create a 16-week cybersecurity apprenticeship program.

The American Cyber Alliance said it partnered with the Arkansas Center for Data Sciences, a group formed in November and born out of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's 2017 blue ribbon commission on data analytics. The organizations aim for the apprenticeship to begin filling a "cyber talent pipeline" for open cybersecurity jobs in Arkansas.

Lee Watson, the former director of The Venture Center in Little Rock, is the executive director of the American Cyber Alliance.

"In Arkansas, there are an estimated 893 positions available," Watson said in a news release. "Cybersecurity Ventures indicates there will be 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs open by 2021. The demand for highly skilled cyber professionals is growing at a rate much faster than the current supply. This program is a key piece of developing the cyber talent pipeline and we're excited to be partnering with Bill Yoder and ACDS on our apprenticeship program.'

Yoder is executive director of the ACDS. The center and ACA started sharing office space in February at Little Rock's Union Plaza. That proximity sparked this collaboration.

The center's mission is to "increase the economic transformation of Arkansas through the utilization of advanced data science tools and concepts like machine learning." 

"Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing fields utilizing these tools and concepts, so it made sense to begin with cybersecurity," Yoder said.

The new apprenticeship, which begins in August, is for information technology employees working in any industry or for an organization of any size. Lee and Yoder said they want an inaugural class of about 20 students and are close to that goal.

The first half of the program will be instructor-led classroom training with experiential group projects. The second half will be in the field, with participants gaining experience in real-world environments.

The program will be funded by the $15,500 tuition per apprentice paid by the apprentices' employers, though some tuition grant reimbursements may be available.

The program registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services will lead recruiting efforts. Watson's company, Forge Institute of Little Rock, will provide instructors, curriculum, guest speakers and other training experiences.

(Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Cybersecurity Ventures is part of the Herjavec Group. The Herjavec Group is a client of Cybersecurity Ventures and sponsored the research it published.)