Strengthening cybersecurity workforce through apprenticeships

Photo of a Cybersecurity shield

PROBLEM - Many organizations are facing devastating cyber threats and have immediate need for skilled cybersecurity professionals. However, it is increasingly difficult to find trained practitioners as everyone is fighting for the same talent. Even if talent is available, the turnover is pretty high given the nationwide shortage of cybersecurity workforce. This challenge is even more severe for small- and medium-sized enterprises. As a business leader, how can you address this critical issue of cybersecurity talent recruitment and retention?

Apprenticeship programs are a proven solution to create and retain a pipeline of skilled workforce. These programs are a tried-and-true process where students train on the job, earn wages and gain valuable experience while taking classes.

Apprenticeships have often been viewed in the United States as helpful for the skilled trades while in Europe and other international communities they are found in many high tech, engineering, health care and other white-collar job opportunities. The European Union not only promotes apprenticeships, but guarantees students the right to an apprenticeship through the European Alliance for Apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship Benefits to Employers Graphic

In this country, the Department of Labor leads several initiatives that seek to make the U.S. not only more receptive and active in offering apprenticeships, but also a major player in developing a sophisticated, highly trained 21st century skilled workforce.

The research on the effectiveness of apprenticeships indicates that these programs can bolster the technical skills of workers while meeting the workforce needs of business. Such programs can help enhance the cybersecurity workforce and also reskill or upskill current employees. In terms of value, employers realize an average 47 percent ROI for every $1 invested, while the community sees a return of $35 in total benefits to the public.

Graphic showing impact of apprenticeshipsACTION ITEMS

Launch a Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program. Organizations can focus on launching DOL-recognized Registered Apprenticeship Programs. These programs are well-defined, documented and approved by the DOL. Key aspects of such programs include a paid work component, work-based learning, employer mentorship, an instructional component and an award of industry-recognized credentials.

These components have been found over time to be critical for successful skills development. Employers may also consider partnering with Colorado Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program (C-CAP) as a grant-funded local resource.

This program adheres to DOL standards and is designed to be a step-by-step structured program to ensure successful outcomes for both apprentices and employers. In terms of effectiveness, the organizations can implement competency-based programs as they provide best value for technology-related jobs. These programs measure apprentices’ progress by assessing skill level with respect to the competencies associated with a job role.


For knowledge retention, it is imperative to engage current talent nearing retirement age to pass on vital institutional knowledge and skills gained on the job. Employers can identify experienced employees to serve as mentors for apprentices. Mentors can also provide guidance on industry or company culture along with polices and procedures. For successful mentorship, it is vital to train mentors who may have limited experience in mentoring novice workers. Overall, apprentices get critical hands-on learning under the auspices of an experienced mentor at a job site.


Employers can address the cybersecurity workforce shortage by enabling their employees to upskill or reskill for cybersecurity competencies. This can provide a steady workforce and alleviate the potential hurdle of the cybersecurity skills gap. The apprenticeship path can provide structured on-the-job training developed through mapping the skills and knowledge necessary for specific cybersecurity roles. DOL emphasizes providing educational instruction as an important indication of quality programs. Such educational instruction would help apprentices achieve their proficiency goals.

Dr. Robert Block is the associate dean for the College of Business and Dr. Gurvirender Tejay is an expert in cybersecurity management and digital privacy.

The UCCS College of Business is one of the first higher education institutions to seek grant funding from the DOL to start an apprenticeship program in Cybersecurity Management.

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