Educators and Employers Talk Tech Security at KC NICE Conference

There’s a reason Google chose to make Kansas City the first gigabit city. We are proudly part of the Silicon Prairie – big tech companies are headquartered here, and big thinkers make mind-blowing innovations happen daily.

But with all that technology, there’s an increasing need for security – and cybersecurity education. As a matter of fact, the demand for cybersecurity professionals is expected to grow 53% by 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That demand will be directly addressed in the upcoming National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) conference and expo, which will be hosted next month right here in Kansas City.

I was recently contacted by a NICE representative, asking if I would help spread the word about the conference. In addition to adding the conference to our event calendar, I thought a full post was in order. Read on to learn about the vast variety of cybersecurity education programs NICE offers, and how they’re helping form a framework to empower the future of our country’s security network – including scholarships and student programs!

Learn about the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education and how they're helping to spread awareness and education about information security on

Please introduce yourself.

I’m Marian Merritt, the Lead for Industry Engagement for NICE, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education. I’ve worked in cybersecurity for 18 years though my educational background is business and marketing. I live in Los Angeles with my family and our neurotic dogs.

Tell us about the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE).

NICE is a nationally coordinated effort focused on cybersecurity awareness, education, training, and professional development. We partner with over 20 federal agencies and with academia and industry.

We have three strategic goals:

  1. Accelerate learning and skills development
  2. Nurture a diverse learning community
  3. Guide career development and workforce planning

The NICE program office is based at National Institute for Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, MD. We’re part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Tell us about the NICE 2016 Conference and Expo.

Our annual conference is an opportunity for thought leaders in all sectors to share their work and assist others in creating similar efforts.

  • Industry can learn about educational efforts going on from K-12 through employee awareness programs.
  • Centers of Academic Excellence (CAEs) from 2- and 4-year academic institutions will share their ideas of what is working.
  • Training specialists will discuss “boot camp” style programs for new cybersecurity professionals or for seasoned professionals to upskill.
  • The competitions landscape is very exciting with so many programs at the middle school through college levels leading to on the spot recruiting from top employers.

What other resources does NICE offer?

One of the most important elements of the NICE work has been to oversee the development of the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework. This effort defines cybersecurity work with a common language to understand the skills associated with work roles. Use of the framework should enable colleges and universities to map their curriculum to the skills required for entering the workforce; for employers to identify gaps in their staff’s capabilities; for employees to determine ways to improve their knowledge or enter into new areas of work.

NICE has public Working Groups to provide a mechanism for public and private sector participants to develop concepts, design strategies and pursue actions that advance cybersecurity education, training and workforce development. We also have subgroups in K-12, Collegiate, Competitions, Training and Certifications and Workforce. We invite any interested person to sign up and join our monthly conference call meetings by sending an email to nicewg_request[at]nist[dot]gov.

In addition to the Working Group, we also have a quarterly newsletter featuring innovative programs or research efforts you’ll want to learn more about. You can read it online and sign up to receive future copies by email.

And soon, we hope to announce a series of webinars.

Are any NICE cybersecurity education resources available for students?

The CyberCorps®: Scholarship for Service (SFS) program aims to develop a well-educated cybersecurity workforce for the government through engagement with educators (colleges and universities) and the target employers (government agencies), to recruit and educate the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.

In Kansas, two awards were awarded recently to Kansas State University and University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc. Another award was given to Missouri University of Science and Technology.

NSA currently hosts the GenCyber program to provide summer camp experiences to K-12 students and teachers. The University of Kansas in Lawrence and Missouri University of Science & Technology hosted camps this summer.

We also fund the NICE Challenge project led by California State University, San Bernadino that created a flexible online virtual environment to allow students to perform tasks outlined in the National Cybersecurity Workforce Framework. The platform is free and open to all for instructional use and allows the student/instructor to evaluate their performance.

Where can someone find more information about NICE, and/or the upcoming conference?

What is the deadline for registering for the 2016 conference?

October 28th is the deadline – you don’t want to miss out!

Anything else you’d like to share?

Take a look at the agenda on the event site – there are so many topics to be discussed, I’m sure everyone can find a topic of interest.

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