Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA), co-chairs of the Congressional Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, introduced the Cybersecurity Skills Integration Act, which will jumpstart the development of CTE curricula that incorporate cybersecurity skills training.
“Protecting power plants, dams, and hospitals that make up our critical infrastructure starts with a workforce that is equipped with the proper skills,” said Congressman Langevin, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus and a senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. “As operational technology is increasingly connected, it is clear that the workers who deal with these systems on a daily basis need a grounding in cybersecurity. This legislation will ensure that CTE programs provide these future operators with the tools they need to defend themselves and the public from the real threats we face in cyberspace.”
“Developing a 21st century workforce to meet the technical demands our country is facing now – and in the future – is paramount,” said Congressman Thompson, a senior Member on the House Committee on Education and Labor. “We must ensure we’re protecting sensitive data and critical infrastructure from bad actors, and this bill is one step in the right direction. By enabling our next generation of skilled learners to have the most sophisticated and comprehensive educational programs out there, we will be better prepared to protect our most critical systems and assets. I encourage my colleagues to support this bill.”
The Cybersecurity Skills Integration Act aims to develop a critical infrastructure workforce that is versed in the threats facing their industries as well as steps they can take to protect their systems. Many occupations in critical infrastructure sectors have a strong safety culture, a culture that is reflected in the CTE programs that prepare students to succeed in these fields. Despite the real harm to person and property that can result from cyber intrusions on operational technology (OT) networks, however, cybersecurity is rarely covered during safety training. OT, as opposed to information technology (IT), encompasses supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, industrial control systems (ICS), and other systems that control physical processes or equipment such as conveyer belts, pumps, or turbines.
“From smart traffic signals that interact with autonomous vehicles to connected power grids, the need for strong cybersecurity is intertwined with virtually every aspect of today’s economy,” said LeAnn Wilson, Executive Director of the Association for Career and Technical Education. “That’s why it is so important to ensure a skilled workforce that can meet the ever-growing demands of America’s increasingly connected critical cyber infrastructure. We commend the sponsors of the Cybersecurity Skills Integration Act for their attention to this issue and we support the bill.”
The bill authorizes $10 million to create a competitive grant program within the Department of Education to incorporate cybersecurity education into new or existing CTE programs. Partnerships formed between educational institutions and local employers will be eligible to apply. The bill also requires the Secretary of Education to coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees defense of the nation’s sixteen critical infrastructure sectors, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which through its National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) promotes a robust ecosystem of cybersecurity education and training.