African-Americans, veterans and women will be among those who will have an opportunity to earn a full scholarship to pursue cybersecurity jobs, thanks to a grant issued to a local company. (Courtesy photo)
African-Americans, veterans and women will be among those who will have an opportunity to earn a full scholarship to pursue cybersecurity jobs, thanks to a grant issued to a local company. (Courtesy photo)

Cybersecurity is an important and growing concern — one that touches every economic sector and is essential for national security, said Max Shuftan, the program director of SANS CyberTalent at the SANS Institute in Maryland.

Shuftan said cybersecurity effects the financial health and well-being of the global business community and consumers alike.

“We are more connected to the internet than ever before,” Shuftan said. “It’s not just computers that store valuable data and are connected to networks … when we use our smartphones, cars, wireless apps and a host of other devices, we put ourselves, our businesses and/or governmental organizations at risk.”

The SANS Institute, noted by many as the world’s leading provider of cybersecurity training and certification, has been awarded an Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) implementation grant from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The $500,000 award, which is for the period of Jan. 1, 2018, through Dec. 31, 2019, will be used by SANS to develop and launch the SANS Cyber Workforce Academy – Maryland.

The Department of Labor and SANS will provide 80 qualified Maryland residents with full scholarships to a fast-track career in cybersecurity. Training will be held at various locations throughout the state in conjunction with online classes.

Applications are now open and will close on March 8, officials said. Those interested should go to

“Organizations are fighting hard to prevent costly breaches that have the power to tarnish a brand’s reputation as well as lead to losses of data, IP, consumer PII, and more,” Shuftan said. “The past years have seen breaches of notable organizations such as Equifax, Target, Yahoo, Anthem and Home Depot. The negative impacts extend beyond the business to include customers and the nation at large. The need for skilled cybersecurity professionals has never been more paramount and the constant talent shortage is a serious issue for all employer.”

Funding from the grant allows for a three- to four-month accelerated cybersecurity training program that will offer students advanced technical training, industry-recognized certifications and hands-on cyber defense and incident handling skills that most Maryland employers seek, company officials said.

The academy will place an emphasis on veterans and women, according to a news release.

SANS is collaborating with industry and nonprofits to support applicant recruitment and postgraduate job searches.

The USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore and the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu will help Academy graduates blend their newly acquired technical skills with soft skills such as communication and leadership to increase their attractiveness to employers, SANS officials said.

Established in 1989 as a cooperative research and education organization, SANS has more than 50 different courses at over 200 live cyber security training and online events.

“The [grant] will provide scholarships for 80 individuals in Maryland coming from non-cybersecurity backgrounds and participants will receive cyber defense and incident handling training, and a pathway into the workforce,” Shuftan said, noting the full commercial value of the scholarships is over $1 million.

He said the EARN initiative is supported by the state and helps businesses cultivate the skilled workforce they need to compete, while preparing Maryland residents for meaningful careers.

“The program, which has been recognized as a national best practice in workforce development, awards funding to strategic industry partnerships comprised of employers, nonprofits, higher education, local workforce development boards and local government,” Shuftan said.

The initiative also means more minorities will be assisted, he said.

“SANS and its partners are committed to increasing diversity in this fast-growing industry,” Shuftan said. “We will serve minorities through this Workforce Academy program through veterans’ scholarships, women’s scholarships, and general job-seeker scholarships.

“SANS is launching a separate minorities scholarship program later this year, building on our existing veterans’ success and Women’s Immersion Academies, as well,” he said.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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