CISA and NPower offer free entry-level cybersecurity training

NPower, a US-based non-profit organization that participates in a cybersecurity workforce development program launched by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), is seeking recruits for a free training program in cybersecurity for underserved populations in the United States, including women, people of color, young adults, and military veterans and their spouses. The program is part of CISA’s broader efforts to address short- and long-term cyber labor shortages.

We asked Nelson Abbott, senior director of advanced program operations at NPower, and Chris Starling, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and assistant vice president at NPower California, to tell us more about it.

[The answers have been edited for clarity.]
How does NPower’s cybersecurity program work? What is its extent?

Nelson Abbott: Our cybersecurity program consists of 18 weeks of intensive technical training, supplemented by professional development and mentorship activities with industry professionals. Interns have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized certifications and, upon completion, receive career path support to help launch their cyber career.

The program is offered nationwide to applicants who reside in or near the regions in which we currently operate: New York/New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Texas, and California.

Chris Starling: Cybersecurity is a natural choice for veterans. The same mindset you need to conduct offensive and defensive operations on land, at sea, and in the air applies to the digital realm.

Another important detail is that our cyber program builds on our Tech Fundamentals program. If you’re new to tech, chances are you can’t just jump into CompTIA Security+ and master this hardware without some understanding of the basics. Many of our cybersecurity program candidates are graduates of Tech Fundamentals, with some moving directly from that course into the cybersecurity course and others spending a year or two in the job market to gain a deeper understanding of networks, servers, and troubleshooting.

What are you looking for in candidates?

N / A: At the basic level, applicants must be at least 18 years old, hold an HS degree (or equivalent), and be authorized to work in the United States. For veterans, they must also be on active duty or have an honorable or general discharge.

Beyond that, we’re looking for a technology background or previous IT experience, perseverance and determination, and a genuine passion for cybersecurity. Our partner employers also place a high value on communication and collaboration skills, critical thinking and problem solving, and a thirst for continuous learning.

CS: This course is about determination and commitment. I tell potential candidates that if they can master video games, GPS on an iPhone, and all kinds of social media, they probably have the aptitude to master the fundamentals of technology and cyber. Come to class curious and do your homework. Bring your diverse background, experience and selfless team spirit.

Will participants learn remotely? The training is offered ‘for free’, but what does that actually mean? What costs can they expect/need to cover?

N / A: Our program is entirely remote, no physical presence is required. All NPower programs are completely FREE – no tuition, no wage garnishment, no loan repayment. All course materials are provided, and for trainees who do not have a suitable computer at home, we can arrange for a loan during the course. The only “cost” of the program is the time and effort of the trainees.

CS: The program is led by remote instructors. We found that our training worked just as effectively this way as when we were physically in class; we surveyed our employers who report the same quality and abilities in our graduates. This simplifies and streamlines learning and leaves more time to study and eliminates the need to travel.

Virtual study sessions with other students are also common. Cohorts of students bond and work together to master the material.

We are often asked, how can it be free? Well, it’s thanks to organizations like CISA and the generosity of people who care like Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and Newmark Philanthropies.

What will applicants earn if they complete the program? What obligations do they assume if they start and finish the program?

N / A: Interns gain an understanding of basic cybersecurity theories, as well as hands-on experience with many tools used by cyber professionals (Linux, NMap, Wireshark, Metasploit, Webgoat, FoxyProxy, etc.).

Interns will also have the opportunity to network with industry professionals through mentorship and guest speakers. They are expected to be available to complete the full program and commit 30-35 hours per week for 18 weeks.

How successful are these types of programs in placing those who have completed them into organizations/companies that need cyber-skilled workers?

N / A: Our cybersecurity program has been operational since 2015. Eighty percent of NPower graduates obtain full-time employment or continue their studies. Not only does NPower change the life trajectories of people from vulnerable communities, it also strengthens the global competitiveness of American businesses crippled by today’s limited pool of IT talent.

CS: Graduates will earn the CompTIA Security+ certification and also have the option of earning the CompTIA Linux+ certification – both of which create a wide range of opportunities.

For veterans, when paired with a secret or top secret security clearance, this certification makes them incredibly marketable for federal government and contractor positions.

In addition to Security+ certification, graduates leave with excellent training in the soft skills needed to work in technology. Resumes, linked in profiles, mock interviews and a series of outstanding technical speakers and former NPower interns complete a program that emphasizes the concept of the whole person.

How can individuals apply and how is their cybersecurity suitability tested?

N / A: Our application is online. Once submitted, it will be reviewed and qualified candidates will be invited for an interview.

The interview will consist of a professional/academic assessment, as well as a social support assessment. The technical assessment focuses on the fundamentals of computer networks. Keeping in mind that not all jobs are technical, we really try to find candidates who express a genuine interest in cybersecurity and demonstrate the courage and determination necessary to not only pass the training, but also to continue. advance their careers long after graduation. .

CS: We do not use a formal test specifically for cybersecurity aptitude, but rather, where have you demonstrated a combination of technical skills and “sensitivity”. If you did well in NPower’s Tech Fundamentals course, this is a major indicator of success in the Cybernetics course. If you come from a previous job in web development or satellite communications in the military, you’ll probably catch on quickly.

Social support maintenance is equally important. NPower truly has comprehensive services through which we will work with each participant to alleviate challenges and barriers to learning.

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