Remaining competitive in the cyber industry through workforce development and 5G

Blog post by Whitney Harmel

Whitney Harmel is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. Through her career history and past role as chair of the Emerging Leaders United Council, she has over a decade of sales, leadership, and relationship-building experience.

It is easy to see why Maryland is the nationwide leader in the cyber and IT industry. Governor Larry Hogan recently announced the creation of the Maryland Chief Information Security Officer (SCISO) position, within the Department of Information and Technology. On top of the support received from the governor’s office, Maryland’s location contributes to its cyber success. Maryland has the most university graduates specializing in cyber engineering in the United States. Because of our centralization and proximity to 60 federal agencies and 20 military facilities, Maryland has become a cyber hub offering 115,500 tech industry jobs and 400+ cybersecurity companies. John Leitch, President and CEO, Winquest Engineering Corporation, in a recent interview told the Maryland Chamber that these advantages make Maryland “one of the nation’s premiere states for cybersecurity” and result in Maryland “having access to local talent, real-world experience” as well as “funding and state assistance to create and grow a healthy cyber and IT industry.”

Our Cyber & Technology policy committee focuses on legislation impacting the cyber and IT industry, specifically data privacy and net neutrality, industry investment and tax credits, and small cell/5G regulations. In this past legislative session, we supported HB 1161/SB 574, which makes innovation and technology transfer grants for small businesses more efficient, as well as other critical legislation for the cyber and IT industry. Through our cyber and IT report, the Maryland Chamber highlights the work we are doing to foster the growth of this industry as well as the challenges ahead of us in the 2020 legislative session. We anticipate net neutrality, cybersecurity and biotechnology investment tax credits, data privacy, and broadband including 5G to be critical issues again this year.

We understand the importance of work experience, mentorships, and exposure to soft skills. Most cyber security related positions on the General Service scale do not have minimum education requirements and we are working with hiring managers and human resource departments to alter their hiring criteria. Gina Abate, President and CEO, Edwards Performance Solutions, recently told us, “Developing and retaining our technology workforce continues to be a key challenge. There are more open jobs in the technology industry than are qualified personnel to fill the positions. The state needs to be creative, leveraging internships and apprenticeships to mentor young talent.” The Maryland Chamber of Commerce actively advocates and supports programs that focus on creating a competitive future workforce, such as P-TECH and teacher externships. We have also partnered with many of our state’s community colleges and universities on education and workforce initiatives.

Even with such booming cyber industry, there is still work to be done. Maryland is falling behind when it comes to 5G. By the end of 2020, 5G will cover roughly half of the United States, yet Maryland has not made progress when it comes to this essential technology. The cyber and IT industry knows one of the ways to do that is remaining innovative when it comes to technology. Our Cyber and Technology Policy Committee is prioritizing this issue in the 2020 legislative session as Maryland businesses want to see this legislation signed into law.

Last year, Virginia passed an industry-backed proposal for 5G. The sense of urgency for Maryland to do the same is compounded by CNBC’s recent article naming Virginia as the top-state for business. Steve Navarro, EVP Sales and Marketing, Mind Over Machines, recently told us, “In order for Maryland – as well as the tech companies – to remain competitive, we need to attract new businesses to the state.” Maryland has a unique advantage over the cyber and IT industry that we need to leverage. Alongside projects like Port Covington, planned from the ground up to be a cyber hub and already dubbed Cyber Town USA, moving forward with 5G will continue to make Maryland innovative, competitive, and desirable to cyber companies.

To view all bills the Maryland Chamber took a position on during our last legislative session, download our 2019 Legislative Report.

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