Sep 12 2014

That Intern May Be Your Next Cyber Whiz

Why CIOs and chief security officers should consider internships as a viable option for building their workforces.

The competition for top IT talent is fierce, especially when seeking employees who understand the nuances of cybersecurity.

For governments with modest budgets and staff, the competition for IT professionals can be overwhelming. It doesn’t help that agencies and companies are poaching talent from a small pool while hoping their best and brightest won’t be lured away.

That’s why CIOs such as Stu Davis are investing in up-and-coming talent. A number of government agencies are doing the same through internship programs that groom future professionals.

A 2014 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that “employers made full-time offers to 64.8 percent of their interns.” The acceptance rate of those job offers fell from 85.6 percent in 2013 to 79 percent in 2014, according to the survey. NASA’s Johnson Space Center, HP, Verizon and the State Department were among 306 participants that provided input.

One of the challenges for graduates with cybersecurity degrees is that employers want the grads to have experience. State and local governments can help to provide that. In Maryland’s Montgomery County, cybersecurity interns work alongside seasoned IT professionals and get experience handling technical operations, incident response, risk analysis and policy development.

Davis, who serves as CIO for Ohio, says the state’s Department of Administrative Services is considering options for enhancing its program and allowing interns to rotate across divisions to provide a “well-rounded view of what central services agencies do,” he says. Interns would get a chance to see what goes on in IT, human resources and other offices.

CIOs likely won’t be offering interns everything that private firms such as Google can offer, but there may be a few perks CIOs can borrow.

At the federal level, agencies are doing their part to ready the workforce for potential employers. In addition to internship programs offered by the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, “the Labor Department has awarded $1.5 billion in the last three years to more than 700 community colleges to develop employer-validated training programs for new careers like natural gas field work and cybersecurity,” according to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

It’s the perfect time for state and local governments to coordinate with community colleges and universities to offer students hands-on experience to enhance their studies in the classroom.

With internship programs winding down for the summer, governments can also spend time evaluating the effectiveness of their programs. Mashable offers six tips for running a successful internship program.