ReliaQuest, the leader in security model management, announced that it has committed to a $1 million gift to the University of South Florida to fund the ReliaQuest Cybersecurity Labs at the USF Muma College of Business. This first-of-its-kind initiative is designed to equip students with the skills necessary to build careers in cybersecurity, providing hands-on, real-world experiences using its secure operating center environment. This program and gift, payable over five years, underpins the company’s commitment to the development of the future cybersecurity workforce. It also helps build upon USF’s national leadership in providing cybersecurity education that is relevant and responsive to the needs of the industry.
For years, the demand for cybersecurity professionals has outpaced the supply of qualified candidates. According to a study from the national cybersecurity publication Dark Reading, “… only 45 percent of organizations report that their security teams are fully staffed, and only 33 percent say they’re armed with the right mix of skills they need…” In addition, the latest Global Information Security Workforce Study highlights a 1.8 million deficit in security professionals by 2022.
“In the face of what the industry refers to as a talent shortage, we believe that cybersecurity is actually suffering from a skills shortage,” said ReliaQuest CEO Brian Murphy. “There are plenty of people eager to enter the cybersecurity field, but they need the skills to perform effectively in those positions. To overcome this challenge, ReliaQuest has chosen to invest both our expertise and financial resources to help solve one of the biggest challenges in the industry.”
As an extension of ReliaQuest’s own comprehensive internal training program, ReliaQuest University, the new USF partnership will support a four-week immersive program that teaches fundamental cybersecurity skills. A key component of ReliaQuest University is its innovative Cyber Simulator, which offers hands-on experiences with the latest security technologies in real-world scenarios. Launched in 2016 for employees, the simulator was offered to ReliaQuest customers free of charge in 2017. It will now be available to all USF students, regardless of major, as part of this new initiative.
The partnership between USF and ReliaQuest is the latest example of USF’s commitment to making Florida the “Cyber State.” The university has led the State University System’s efforts to expand cybersecurity education, research and community outreach. ReliaQuest has hired many USF graduates over the past several years, and the company wants to strengthen this valuable talent pipeline.
“Cybersecurity is one of the hottest job fields that exists today, with a huge demand for skilled professionals. Rather than see this as a challenge, we see it as an opportunity to find innovative solutions together with industry partners like ReliaQuest,” said USF Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem. “Ultimately, it’s our students who will benefit the most, gaining valuable skills and hands-on experiences that will help them land lucrative jobs after graduation and help build Florida’s economy.”
The ReliaQuest Cybersecurity Labs curricula is being jointly developed and facilitated by USF faculty and ReliaQuest security experts. It includes standard classroom sessions alongside in-depth technical labs, where students build critical skills using the latest cybersecurity technology via hands-on simulation.
The first 30 students were selected through an open application process, and the first class starts on Oct. 5; hundreds of students are expected to participate in the initiative over the next five years. Students who successfully complete the program will be invited to interview for positions with ReliaQuest.
After hire, they will begin the full version of ReliaQuest’s intensive, simulation-based security analyst training, where they will learn the processes and technologies necessary to perform their jobs. As a result, these students will have real-world experience and a head start on their cybersecurity careers once they graduate.
“The ReliaQuest Cybersecurity Labs will fill an important gap in the learning process for students interested in cybersecurity,” said Murphy. “By going through this program, students will have the foundation necessary to start learning cybersecurity so they can build careers they’re proud of.”