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Aligning talent pipelines with industry needs

Learn how Accenture teamed with the Business-Higher Education Forum to meet the growing U.S. employer demand for cybersecurity professionals.


The Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) is a U.S.-based organization that develops new undergraduate programs in emerging high-skill, high-demand fields. It promotes strategies that address education-workforce misalignment exhibited in regions across the country, and drive economic competitiveness.

The shortage of cybersecurity talent is a major concern for many companies in United States and the government as the volume of data is expanding at an exponential speed. Despite this growing demand, career pathways into cybersecurity remain unclear.

Fragmented certification and training programs, and the unsuccessful recruitment and retention of minority and women professionals compound the talent shortage. On the demand side, the absence of commonly defined industry requirements in cybersecurity makes it challenging to qualify and quantify employer demands.

Thus, BHEF wanted to develop a solution that could address the shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals as well as create pathways for low-income and underrepresented minority students in this field.

Accenture helped BHEF address these challenges and create a more diverse talent pool through a strong cybersecurity program design. We also developed a partner engagement model, which coupled with the program design framework, enables BHEF to successfully launch programs, while allowing enough flexibility for individual locations and responding to local market needs.


The demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals grew 74 percent from 2007 to 2013 in the United States. As cybersecurity demand began to outstrip supply, cybersecurity job postings took 24 percent longer to fill than all IT job postings and 36 percent longer than overall job postings.

Building from its flagship Cyber Undergraduate Pathways (CyberUP) programs in partnership with colleges, universities and businesses in Maryland, BHEF aimed to address the critical shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals. The organization also wanted to expand regionally and nationally to align low-income student talent and workforce needs through a combination of labor market-driven academics, work experience and certifications.

The CyberUP program is part of BHEF’s National Higher Education Workforce Initiative to create local, regional and national impact by catalyzing market-driven projects in emerging cross-disciplinary fields. BHEF chose Accenture to conduct a comprehensive market assessment and develop a business plan to scale higher education cybersecurity programs.


Accenture helped BHEF draw insights for its cybersecurity program by assessing the needs of employers and taking into consideration education barriers faced by the target population as well as lessons from existing training models.

The cybersecurity education program:

  • Addresses skill development and talent acquisition challenges in cybersecurity.

  • Meets the varying needs across segments of the target low-income and underrepresented student population.

  • Ensures the initiatives taken address barriers for entry and persistence for low-income students. It recommends the appropriate combination of academic coursework, work experience and certifications to prepare students to meet businesses’ demands based on regional market needs.

We also helped BHEF developed a strong partnership framework, which brings the right parties together in the right roles to successfully develop each initiative. The framework helps partners design programs to recruit, prepare and place students in alignment with employer demand and student needs across regions.


Accenture has helped BHEF address a critical industry and workforce misalignment, and create a more diverse talent pool through a strong program design. With this strategy in place, BHEF is positioned to expand CyberUP by:

  • Convening at the national level: BHEF’s National Cyber Network sets the cyber workforce strategic agenda, and provides a platform to share and scale effective practices across the United States.

  • Building on existing local and regional projects: BHEF can create more individual projects for students, expand within university or regional systems and develop larger networks.

  • Launching in new geographies based on market demand: BHEF can launch the programs through a regional approach (targeting a region with high workforce need and ripe for partner engagement to form a network) and a college or university approach (identifying a college or university program with the potential to expand with BHEF support).