CISA and NPower offer free entry-level cybersecurity training

CISA and NPower offer free entry-level cybersecurity training


NPower, a U.S.-based nonprofit that participates in a cybersecurity workforce development program initiated by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), is looking for recruits for a free training program in cybersecurity targeting neglected U.S. populations, including women, people of color, young adults, and military veterans and their spouses. The program is part of CISA’s broader effort to address short- and long-term cyber labor shortages.

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

free training in cybersecurity USA

[The answers have been edited for clarity.]

How does the NPower cybersecurity program work? How extensive is its scope?

Nelson Abbott: Our cybersecurity program is 18 weeks of intensive technical training, complemented by professional development activities and mentoring with industry professionals. Students have the opportunity to achieve industry-recognized certifications and, once completed, receive support for their professional careers to help them launch their cyber careers.

The program is offered nationwide to candidates residing in or near the regions where 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 carry out offensive and defensive operations on land, sea and air are applicable to the digital domain.

Another important detail is that our cyber program is based on our Technological Fundamentals program. If you’re new to technology, you probably won’t be able to jump into CompTIA Security + and master this stuff without a little understanding of the basics. Many of our cybersecurity program applicants are graduates in Technology Fundamentals, some go directly from this course to the cybersecurity course and others spend a year or two in the workforce to gain a deeper understanding of networks, servers and troubleshooting.

What are you looking for in applicants?

NA: At a basic level, candidates must be at least 18 years old, have an HS degree (or equivalent) and be legal to work in the US. For veterans, they must also be in active service or have an honorary or general leave.

Beyond that, we seek prior training in computer technology or experience, persistence and determination, and a true passion for pursuing cybersecurity. Our business partners also highly value communication and collaboration skills, critical thinking and problem solving, and a desire for lifelong 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 sorts of social media, they will probably have the aptitude to master the fundamentals of technology and cybernetics. Introduce yourself to class with curiosity and do homework. Bring your diverse background, experience and a disinterested teamwork mindset.

Will participants learn at a distance? The training is offered “for free,” but what does that mean in practice? What costs can they expect to have / will they have to cover?

NA: Our program is completely remote, no physical assistance required. All NPower programs are completely FREE: no tuition fees, no pay foreclosures, no loan repayments. All class material is provided and, for students who do not have a suitable computer at home, we can arrange a loan during the course of the program. The only “cost” of the program is the time and effort of the students.

CS: The program is led by distance instructors. We have found that our training works as effectively in this way as when we were physically in class; we have consulted our employers who report the same quality and capabilities to our graduates. This simplifies and streamlines learning and allows more time to study and eliminates the need to travel.

Virtual study sessions with peers also occur frequently. Cohorts of students come together and work together to master the material.

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

What will applicants gain if they finish the program? What obligations do they assume if they start and end the program?

NA: Students gain an understanding of the basic theories of cybersecurity, as well as hands-on experience with many of the tools used by cybersecurity professionals (Linux, NMap, Wireshark, Metasploit, Webgoat, FoxyProxy, etc.).

Apprentices will also have the opportunity to connect with industry professionals through mentoring and guest intervention. The expectation is that they will be available to attend the program in its entirety, and commit between 30 and 35 hours per week for 18 weeks.

How successful are these types of programs in placing those who have finished them with organizations / companies that need workers specializing in cybernetics?

NA: Our cybersecurity program has been in operation since 2015. Eighty percent of NPower graduates get a full-time job or continue their training. NPower is not only changing the life trajectories of people in vulnerable communities, but is also strengthening the overall competitiveness of U.S. companies affected by the current limited IT talent group.

CS: Graduates will earn CompTIA Security + certification and will also have the opportunity to earn CompTIA Linux + certification, both of which create a wide range of opportunities.

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

In addition to Security + certification, graduates come out with excellent training in the white skills needed to work in the technology field. Resumes, linked in profiles, simulated interviews and a series of outstanding technology speakers and former NPower apprentices complete a program that emphasizes the concept of the whole person.

How can people apply and how is their aptitude for cybersecurity tested?

NA: 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 evaluation focuses on the fundamentals of computer networks. Given that not all jobs are technical, we really try to find those candidates who show a genuine interest in cybersecurity and show the courage and determination needed not only to successfully complete the training, but to continue advancing in their career after graduation. .

CS: We do not use a formal test specifically for cybersecurity fitness, but where you have demonstrated a combination of technological skill and “permanence”. If you are doing well in the NPower Technology Basics course, this is an important indicator of success in the cyber course. If you come from a previous job doing web development or working in satellite communications in the military, you’ll probably understand each other quickly.

Equally important is the social support interview. NPower really has comprehensive services through which we will work with all participants to mitigate learning challenges and barriers.



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