Wouldn’t It Be NICE? The NICE Conference & Expo

By Marian Merritt

Kansas City may be known as the epicenter of world class barbecue and home to some of the greats of jazz and blues, but it might come as a surprise to some that K.C. is a growing force in cybersecurity, too.

On November 1-2, 2016, Kansas City will play host to the annual NICE Conference & Expo. NICE (National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education), which is led by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) within the U.S. Department of Commerce, describes itself as “a partnership between government, academia, and the private sector focused on cybersecurity education, training, and workforce development.”

It’s fitting NICE would choose K.C. for this year’s conference. Major organizations – including H&R Block, Spring, Cerner, and Garmin – have a significant corporate presence in the area. The tech community is lively with chapters of ISSA, ISC2, ISACA, and local organizations like KCNEXT and KC Geeks, just to name a few. And within the academic world of higher education, several local universities are designated as Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Cybersecurity by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency.

We often bemoan the shortcomings in the infosec industry: far too many open positions and not enough people graduating with cybersecurity degrees to fill them, a lack of diversity among cybersecurity experts, the untenable amount of time it takes to find qualified candidates, and of course, high job turnover. These aren’t just growing pains of a nascent field – these are serious woes preventing organizations (public and private) from achieving their IT goals. The NICE Conference & Expo will bring attention to these problems and propose solutions.

Here are some of the highlights we’re looking forward to at the NICE Conference & Expo:

  • The launch of the Cybersecurity Jobs Heat Map, powered by Burning Glass
  • Information about apprenticeship and workforce programs in Europe
  • An international panel on the cybersecurity workforce
  • Presentations from the recent RAMPS grant winners
  • Guidance in using the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework

Cybersecurity needs are urgent, so companies are getting creative, starting their own “boot camp” training programs for new hires and sending existing employees from both tech and non-tech roles to get certifications. In the public sector, government programs are being implemented to reimburse employees for college costs to stay competitive with the higher salaries offered in private industry. If you’re looking for new ideas like these, or want to see what works for others, consider joining us in the Paris of the Plains next month.

There will be innovative displays of cutting edge products by industry leaders, including virtual cybersecurity training labs and educational games for use in company competitions. And, as always, the NICE Conference & Expo promises incredible networking opportunities and great conversation. Who knows, you might find yourself having such a great time learning new skills and making new connections you won’t even get around to getting some ‘cue. But don’t worry, K.C.’s tastiest bbq joints ship anywhere in the US!

About Marian Merritt

Marian Merritt is the Lead for Industry Engagement for the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

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