At a time when American computer networks are subject to constant cyber attacks from China, Russia, North Korea and other countries, our government should take responsibility for strongly upgrading computer education in our schools. Protecting our national security from cyber attacks requires nothing less. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in 2012, warned that we are open to a “cyber Pearl Harbor” and Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn protecting our computer networks is “just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space.”
The attacks not only threaten government networks, but also private sector commercial computer networks. A “glitch” was blamed for causing the suspension of trading on the New York Stock Exchange for nearly four hours, the grounding of all United Airlines flights, and the malfunction of the Wall Street Journal’s web site, all on the same day.
There have been about 750 “control system cyber events,” which included both malicious attacks and non-malicious incidents, that have effected many major industries. Of those incidents, at least 50 of them caused about 1,000 deaths and a cost of about $40 billion, Joseph Weiss reported in writing for The Daily Beast.
One of America’s top cyber security experts, James Gosler, believes that the United States has only 1,000 individuals with the necessary skills to defend the country against the most complex cyber attacks, and that 20,000 to 30,000 will be needed. Additionally, more than 209,000 cyber security jobs in our country are unfilled, and these postings are expected to grow by 74 percent over the next five years, according to a Peninsula Press analysis of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The number of jobs in information security is going to grow tenfold in the next 10 years,” said Virginia Lehmkuhl-Dakhwe, director of the Jay Pinson STEM Education Center at San Jose State University, which mentors youth to enter and excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. “We have to do much more if we want to meet that demand, at the university level as well as K-12.”
Our schools and universities are producing no where near enough trained experts in cyber security, in part due to a lack of interest in students in these areas of study. The waning domestic interest in technology is happening at a time when salaries in those fields are booming. High-tech jobs pay 73 percent more than the average private-sector wage in the United States.
“Computer programmers are in great demand by American businesses, across the tech sector, banking, entertainment, you name it. These are some of the highest-paying jobs, but there are not enough graduates to fill these opportunities,” Sen. Marco Rubio said.
There are far fewer graduates of computer science compared to the need. According to Code.org, “Only 29 states allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation. There are currently 559,321 open computing jobs nationwide. Last year, only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce.”
While it may seem surprising, many students go through their k-12 education spending very little time learning about computers. Computer science is the only part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum that has declined in the last 20 years, “from 25% of high school students to only 19%, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics.”
It is clear that our public schools, at the k-12 levels must inspire more interest among students in taking up computer science studies. Our colleges and universities must encourage more students to study computer science and become cyber security and graduate with degrees in these fields. Because it is in the interest of protecting national security, maybe an investment in scholarships and other efforts to rapidly increase cyber security education is in order.
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