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White House: Cyber Competitions Could Solve Skills Shortage

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White House policy experts are trying a new recruiting tack to fix a cyber-skills shortage: host more competitions nationwide. 

Earlier this week, the Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted a workshop aimed at encouraging volunteers and organizers to step up national cybersecurity competitions that could propel children into science, technology, engineering and math tracks, eventually meeting a need for cyber workers in the United States. 

This week's event gathered representatives from CyberPatriot, an Air Force Association program that teaches high school and middle students science and cyber concepts, the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, in which teams of students are asked to protect a network of servers, and the Center for Internet Security's U.S. Cyber Challenge, which has online instruction and a virtual capture-the-flag game. 

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Such competitions could attract students "from all geographic locations and walks of life" to cybersecurity-related professions, a blog post by OSTP's Assistant Cybersecurity Director Tim Polk said. The White House is trying to grow its workforce and make it more diverse. 

While such cyber competitions have been overwhelmingly male dominated, CyberPatriot's female participation is now 23 percent, the blog post said. And the competitions aren't just for students: Participants might include professionals segueing into new careers or those attending college after military service, among other paths. 

Federal agencies, such as the Homeland Security Department, have also used these competitions as a way to experiment with new technology, according to the White House. 

A report published earlier this week found the majority of global professionals don't think their governments do enough to address a widespread cyber-skills shortage, and that the skills shortage does "direct and measurable" damage to their organizations, primarily by making them more vulnerable to cyberattack. 

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