Baker-Polito Administration highlights Massachusetts college students and mentors for helping address diversity and equity in industry workforce
At the 2020 Massachusetts Cybersecurity Forum in late October, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker lauded efforts happening across the Commonwealth to boost cyber resiliency and to boost diversity in the cybersecurity sector. During his remarks, the Governor highlighted the efforts of the MassCyberCenter to assist Massachusetts communities with the development of contingency plans focusing on cybersecurity, including sessions held during spring and summer 2020.
In attendance was UMass Dartmouth Computer Engineering student Marcel Vieira, who was honored at the virtual event.
A spotlight was also put on the Cybersecurity Mentorship Pilot Program, a new initiative run by the MassCyberCenter to pair diverse college students from across Massachusetts with mentors from the cybersecurity industry. The goal of the program is to boost diversity within the ranks of the cybersecurity workforce in Massachusetts by developing mentor/mentee relationships that help students develop career paths, learn about the cyber industry, and work collaboratively on technical projects.
“When our administration created the MassCyberCenter three years ago, we gave it a mission to act as a committed partner with business, academia, and the public sector, to continue developing a talented workforce and to expand our cybersecurity ecosystem,” said Governor Baker. “Projects like the Mentorship Pilot Program help us fulfill this mission by encouraging growth and diversity in the state’s cybersecurity workforce.”
“It is imperative that we continue to promote the entry of diverse talent into our tech workforce, and our administration continues to prioritize these efforts that will make Massachusetts companies stronger” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, who also co-chairs the Massachusetts STEM Council. “By boosting opportunity and creating new pathways into the cyber sector, we will also have more talented workers who are equipped to defend our institutions and businesses in the Commonwealth against emerging cyber threats.”
Following the application launch for the Cybersecurity Mentorship Pilot Program, the MassCyberCenter selected candidates from colleges across Massachusetts and mentors from the cybersecurity field, pairing them based on career interests and other factors. During their time in the pilot program, students worked on specific projects under the guidance of their mentor. Each student will have the opportunity to present their completed project at a showcase event at the end of the program.
“Mentorship can play a critical role in helping prepare students for careers, especially at the college level, and to break down the barriers faced by diverse students,” said Stephanie Helm, the Director of the MassCyberCenter. “I am thrilled at the response from colleges and universities across Massachusetts. It is also impressive to see the time invested by these mentors and the commitment of their companies. It is a testimony to the value of the program within the wider cyber sector.”
“The lack of diversity in the cybersecurity workforce is a well-known issue. By pairing college students interested in cybersecurity with a mentor from this industry, we are tackling that issue head on,” said Damon Cox, Assistant Secretary of Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “I’m extremely excited to support the Mentorship program as a member of its Steering Committee and to join with these leading organizations to address this critical issue.”