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How a New Social Network Could Help Close the Cyber Worker Shortage

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By Jack Moore January 5, 2015

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It’s no secret the federal government and scores of private companies have struggled to attract qualified cybersecurity professionals.

But the backers of a new project to create a full-scale social networking site to vet current and would-be cyber warriors say the bustling online community they envision may be the answer.

When a beta version of the site goes live this spring, organizers aim to have 10,000 registered users participating on the CyberCompEx site, which is a partnership of the U.S. Cyber Challenge, a nonprofit devoted to training the country’s cyber workforce, and jobs-site giant Monster.com.

Currently, there are about 1,000 members as part of a 1.0 version of the site, which has received seed funding from the Department of Homeland Security’s research and development division.

Under the partnership with Monster, the site will be revamped, "to take it to the next level, so that people can stay actively engaged and they can develop their own communities," said Karen Evans, the head of U.S. Cyber Challenge.

Site creators have bigger ambitions than just designing another resume site.

On the new site, users will be able to find more information about hands-on competitions and cyber camps, meet like-minded professionals and share information with each other. For each user, the site will also compile a career profile, showing their skills and abilities based on their participation in the competitions. Think of the virtual water cooler of Facebook crossed with LinkedIn and something like Xbox Live, developers say.

"What we really want to do is partner up with industry, giving industry tools that they can use to reach this population and actually fill the skill gaps within their own organizations with people with demonstrated capabilities,” said Evans, the former administrator of the Office of E-Government and Information Technology during the George W. Bush administration.

A mock-up of the new site was unveiled last month at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s annual R&D showcase, where it received a welcome reception from the researchers, agency officials and industry representatives in attendance, backers of the project say.

The new online community could go some way toward helping reverse the cyber workforce shortage in the federal government, creators say.

There’s no shortage of factors tipping the scales against the federal government when it comes to attracting cyber talent. Experts point to federal salaries that don’t keep up with private industry and a vicious cycle of talent poaching between agencies themselves.

Also vexing for agencies: how to make sure applicants and jobseekers are truly qualified for positions extended to them.

Employers who peruse the site are “going to know that the people who they're talking to have actually demonstrated this skill set,” Evans said. "So that's going to help the employer to be able to hire them and have them hit the ground running faster."

During the next phase of the site, developers aims to enhance user profiles, combining a traditional Monster-type career profile with the skills demonstrated through online cyber competitions.

"It's not just a one-time (thing): Go to a website and register and that's it,” said Susan Fallon, vice president of global strategy and business development for Monster Government Solutions. “We really need to continue the conversation, particularly as the nature of cyber and those skills needed are changing so rapidly. We want to make sure that there's a two-way dialogue with this talent pool and the employers that are going to need them."

Evans and Fallon stress the site will be open to users of all skill levels. No prior competition -- or even cyber -- experience is necessary to register for the site.

"If you've never participated in a competition, this is exactly where you'd want to come," Evans said, because the site can connect users with upcoming competitions that meet their current skills. Evans said she hopes the site also can become a resource for parents looking for beginner competitions for their computer-savvy, school-age children.

(Image via Jirsak/Shutterstock.com)

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