With skilled cybersecurity professionals in short supply, colleges and universities across the country are racing to create cybersecurity curriculum for students and industry professionals. Understanding how important it is for the U.S. to develop a skilled cybersecurity workforce, a variety of public and private entities are offering grants to help higher education institutions develop cybersecurity programs. The public grants listed in this post are mainly federal. There are plenty of state and locals grants as well, we’re planning a sperate post on those.
Schools with a clear grasp of the skills needed for cybersecurity are using these grants to invest in Cyber Ranges. Cyber Ranges are cyberattack simulators. They are to cybersecurity professionals what flight simulators are to pilots. Pilots log a percentage of the flight hours required for licensing in a simulator because they are they can experience and practice dealing with scenarios that are too difficult or impractical to do in a real plane. To underscore their importance, Sully Sullenberger recently testified to Congress that all pilots should be re-trained, via simulator on the Boeing 737 MAX before allowing the grounded plane to fly again.
Because Range-based training is the only viable way for students to experience a cyberattack BEFORE they experience one on the job, they’ve become foundational to cyber defense training. Cyber Ranges are not a frivolous investment, but there’s an expanding body of grants available to fund them. Here are some of the top ones on our radar:
- The National Science Foundation is the premier federal funding source for most fields of science and engineering. With an annual budget of $8.1 billion (FY 2019), the NSF is the major source of federal backing for federally funded research in fields such as mathematics, computer science, and the social sciences. It’s cybersecurity specific grants include:
- Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace (SaTC) funds, cybersecurity initiatives involving hardware, software, networks, data, people, and integration with the physical world. One of the many specific opportunities under SaTC includes:
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service – institutions can apply for this under SaTC to recruit and train the next generation of information technology professionals, industry control system security professionals and security managers to meet the needs of the cybersecurity mission for federal, state, local, and tribal governments.
- Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program focuses on the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive our nation’s economy. The program involves partnerships between academic institutions (grades 7-12, IHEs) and industry to promote improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary institution school levels.
- Training-based Workforce Development for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (CyberTraining)program seeks to prepare, nurture, and grow the national scientific research workforce for creating, utilizing, and supporting advanced cyberinfrastructure (CI) to enable and potentially transform fundamental science and engineering research and contribute to the Nation’s overall economic competitiveness and security.
- Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration – This grant was created for institutions of higher education to increase the availability of apprenticeships in order to close the skills gap that exists between employer job requirements and employee/applicant skills. The program’s goals are to accelerate the expansion of apprenticeships to new industry sectors and occupations, including cybersecurity.
- Community College Cyber Pilot (C3P) Program has funded projects to implement scholarship programs at nine community colleges. Grants are earmarked to develop “innovative and efficient cybersecurity education system that will produce an unrivaled cybersecurity workforce as well as a cybersecurity-literate citizenry.
- Lumina Foundation priorities are initiatives that develop competency-based learning and help students gain their first industry credentials that will help them joined the skilled workforce.
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is the 12th-largest private foundation in the United States, has an endowment of $7.0 billion, and provides approximately $260 million annually in grants and impact investments.
- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Postsecondary Success program is to ensure that all students who seek the opportunity are able to complete a high-quality, affordable post-secondary education that leads to a sustaining career. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation does not usually accept unsolicited requests for funding, so check out their ‘How We Work’ page.
Corporate Training Offers Additional Funding Opportunities
Hands-on training is just as valuable for seasoned industry professionals as it is for undergrads. By creating service offerings for cybersecurity industry professionals or by leasing it to enterprises for private training, universities can substantially offset the capital cost of a Cyber Range.
Schools such as Miami Dade College and Regent University have created a recurring revenue stream from making from Range-based training available to corporate clients. Another benefit of catering to the professional community is that physical Ranges are often the centerpiece of university cybersecurity centers. These centers provide a physical locale for the academic and professional cybersecurity communities to connect. That keeps the conduit open between them for job placement, research, curriculum development and a host of other mutually beneficial collaborations.
Universities that move quickly to develop cybersecurity programs will be well-positioned to onboard students into a highly-skilled, lucrative field with more jobs than people to fill them. And there’s no doubt — cybersecurity education must include hands-on training. Universities that structure their curriculum accordingly will extract maximum value from the growing body of cybersecurity-related funding available to them. I’ll periodically update this list as I hear of new funding sources, but in the meantime, these grants can help turn your vision for a high caliber cybersecurity program into reality.
Stay tuned for more information about state and local grants.
Susan Green is Managing Director, Cyberbit Ltd. and is happy to assist colleges and universities seeking to build a cyber range training and simulation facility.