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By Bethaney Lee

In a recent conversation, William Morrissette, Chief Administrative Officer at WeReach Inc., expressed heartfelt gratitude to the collaborative efforts that helped establish their groundbreaking cybersecurity apprenticeship program, specifically highlighting the indispensable support from ICF’s Cybersecurity Youth Apprenticeship Initiative (CYAI), by saying, “Couldn't have done it without you!”  

“I outreached to WeReach in May 2022, initiating contact with William Morrissette, who expressed interest in CYAI. WeReach was interested in establishing a Registered Apprenticeship (RA) program for cybersecurity in Massachusetts, a move that would position their organization as a trailblazer, given the absence of such registered programs in the state at the time,” ICF Senior Workforce Consultant Danielle Chiaraluce said.  

This acknowledgment set the stage for the significant impact of a nearly $200,000 grant recently awarded to WeReach on behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), aimed at enhancing cybersecurity education and workforce development in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities.

“The recent grant will help us to research career pathways from communities of color in the Gateway Cities of Massachusetts to the WeReach Cybersecurity Apprenticeship and, ideally, other cyber apprenticeships yet to be created,” Morrissette said. “We know that there are substantial socio-economic barriers to participation and these barriers fluctuate based on whether we are talking about returning citizens, youth, non-traditional students, individuals with no previous IT experience, etc. With this grant we are able to evaluate these barriers for various demographics and chart viable pathways to apprenticeship completion.”

To accelerate the apprenticeship model, Morrissette said there needs to be an appreciation for the many moving pieces that come together.  

“Specifically, we often need alliance with State entities that can help subsidize the cost of pre-apprentice training, we need a large compliment of employers so that we can seat larger cohorts in the apprenticeships, we need fellow community-based organizations that can link us to individuals in the community. Our research will be trying to better understand and align these forces to enhance the cyber apprenticeship effort in the Gateway Cities of Mass.,” Morrissette said.  

Building upon the foundation of these alliances and partnerships, Morrissette underscores the challenges faced by socio-economically disadvantaged communities when attempting to enter the cybersecurity field. These challenges necessitate targeted interventions to ensure equitable access to career opportunities.  

The next phase of WeReach's research aims to tackle these systemic obstacles by advocating for subsidized training programs, which are crucial for bridging the gap between potential apprentices and the current requirements of the cybersecurity industry.

“We anticipate our research will demonstrate that socio-economically disadvantaged individuals in the Gateway Cities will struggle to participate in a cyber apprenticeship unless there is subsidized pre-apprenticeship training. Employers we are working with do not seem willing to invest training dollars or take on apprentices in IT and cyber unless basic certifications in networking and security are already obtained. We know that there is a shortage of cyber workers, but this hasn’t translated into employers being willing to commit resources as in other fields,” Morrissette said.  

Ultimately, the question becomes how we make it sustainable, Morrissette said, “And the short answer is continued State subsidy, but we hope our research efforts will help us to better identify how we might be able to form more strategic partnerships that make this type of apprenticeship sustainable minus government funding which can be challenging and sporadic.”

In response to the challenges of sustainability, has blossomed the goal of solving how to secure the essential support and resources needed to bridge these gaps and further strengthen the apprenticeship pathway.  

For more information about CYAI partner, WeReach, please visit www.wereach.us  

 

WeReach Receives Grant for Strategic Initiative to Overcome Socio-Economic Barriers in Massachusetts' Gateway Cities

By Bethaney Lee

In a recent conversation, William Morrissette, Chief Administrative Officer at WeReach Inc., expressed heartfelt gratitude to the collaborative efforts that helped establish their groundbreaking cybersecurity apprenticeship program, specifically highlighting the indispensable support from ICF’s Cybersecurity Youth Apprenticeship Initiative (CYAI), by saying, “Couldn't have done it without you!”