WED AM News: Cybersecurity ‘talent gap’ expected to widen over next decade; MSOE professor highlights pandemic impacts on tech sector workforce

— A cybersecurity expert with Northwestern Mutual warns the field’s “talent gap” will widen in the next decade as technology continues evolving. 

“I think the gap between what we’re able to fill and what we need is only going to continue to grow,” said Igor Zabara, vice president of cyber defense and operations for the Milwaukee-based financial services company. 

Speaking yesterday during the SysLogic Cybersecurity Summit at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Abbott Laboratories Cyber Security Manager Ken Kazinski agreed with Zabara’s outlook. 

“The fact that the technology changes all the time is what the gap is really going to be about,” Kazinski said. “The fact that you’re going to have to have different skill sets in 10 years than we have today, is what’s going to make the difference.” 

Abbott is a Chicago-based company, and Kazinski said “we’ve got a lot more pull” from that area. But both panelists said their respective organizations are looking “farther afield” to find skilled tech workers in the current labor environment. 

They noted the trend toward more remote work is enabling employers to hire from across the globe, though Zabara said the “hearts and minds” of human resources departments still need to adapt to this shift. 

“I just think it’s part of the culture. It’s a bit ingrained, right?” he said. “We want people to come to an office. Well, do we? Does that help? Do we need it? In some cases, maybe.” 

He sees the remote work trend as a bonus for the industry, arguing most employers in the region would benefit from hiring “from Denver, California, New York, rather than trying to source the talent that’s just located right here, that we have a shortage of.” 

The panelists also urged hiring managers and HR professionals in the cybersecurity field to move quickly when a potential hire seems to be a good fit. Kazinksi said “you’ve got to be fast” in deciding who to hire, “because that talent … is being quickly picked up.” 

Zabara added: “The days of the employer being selective, and having the upper hand, are behind us. We have to cater to the employees.”

— A professor at MSOE said disruptions of in-person learning during the pandemic will likely harm the tech sector workforce, noting educators are already seeing the impacts. 

“Our freshmen that are coming in now basically have spent two of their four years in high school in a very different environment,” Walt Shilling, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the university, said during yesterday’s conference. “What we’re finding across higher ed is there are certain sets of skills that just overall did not transfer as well, and are not retaining as well.” 

He pointed to mathematics and critical thinking in particular, noting these skill sets are “so utterly important in the cybersecurity and engineering world.” Shilling said professors are gearing their classes toward keeping students interested and reinforcing those skills to improve their chances of success. 

Shilling also highlighted decreased interest in STEM fields more broadly, as related high school and K-12 programs have been unable to meet and operate as usual during the pandemic. 

“That impacts us over the next four years — that impacts you as employers in the next four, six, eight years down the road because there won’t be, potentially, as many graduates coming out with these types of skills,” he said. 

He noted some students are taking an extra semester to graduate due to these issues. 

“We’re trying to keep as many students in the pipeline as possible, and overall we’re doing okay with it,” he said. “But it is a challenge.” 

— The GOP-run Joint Finance Committee has tweaked the Evers administration’s plan for an extra $283 million in federal transportation funds, including a ban on using a small pot of the money for bike trails.

The bulk of the extra money flowing into Wisconsin this fiscal year comes from the bipartisan infrastructure bill that cleared Congress and was signed by President Biden.

The state Department of Transportation proposed using $123.6 million of that for state highway rehabilitation, with $83.8 million for local transportation facilities and $60.7 million for local bridge improvements.

All three made the cut in the GOP motion, which was approved 11-4.

The motion placed restrictions on nearly $4.3 million that will go into the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program. That provides funding for projects that cut transportation-related pollution or reduce congestion.

The motion specifies the funds may only be used for highway right-of-way improvements that reduce congestion or improve traffic flow, as well as traffic signaling improvements.

See more at 

See the motion:

— Homeowners with pools can now offer their properties and pools for rent on AirBnb and VRBO after JCRAR suspended rules that prevented many from including pools in their rental agreements.

The GOP-run Joint Committee on Review of Administrative Rules yesterday voted 6-4 to approve lifting the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection rules. They required those looking to rent their homes with pools using popular short-term rental services to comply with the same rules imposed on hotel pools and water parks. Before the move, homeowners with pools were only allowed to list their properties if they excluded pool access from rental agreements, or if they obtained a license to rent pool access.

The move comes as DATCP is working on a new rule to regulate those pools differently and avoid issues brought up during public testimony on the move.

Committee Co-chair Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, before voting in favor of lifting restrictions said DATCP preventing homeowners from listing their pools in rental agreements was an example of overbearing government that could put owners of smaller rental properties out of business.

“I think government in this case has gone overbearing,” he said. “Potentially balance may come with the administrative rule that will be coming from the department, but at this time, as was pointed out by numerous individuals: nobody gets a license. Government comes in and just crushes the businesses that are out there, the small ma and pas, right down to hot tubs. You can’t even have a house and rent out a hot tub.”

Two Wisconsinites who testified said DATCP told them “nobody gets a license” when they requested licenses to allow them to list pool access on rental agreements for their properties. They also said many of the requirements to comply with licensure requirements would be cost prohibitive.

Reps. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, and Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, argued the Legislature should allow DATCP to promulgate the rules it is currently working on and raised concerns lifting the rules could make promulgating new rules more challenging.

“I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and get rid of regulation that currently is providing some protection for the citizens of our state,” Hebl said.

Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, during the hearing argued the rental market regulates itself and lifting the rules would help alleviate the burden of antiquated policies.

“As the tech economy has continued to grow and innovate over the years, our statutes and our administrative code, they just weren’t prepared for this type of innovation,” August said.

Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association President and CEO Bill Elliott at the hearing argued smaller rental operations should have to abide by the same rules as bigger operations such as hotels and water parks.

Elliot asked: “If we as a state deem this important to the safety of our guests and facilities with staff who are trained in pool maintenance, why wouldn’t we want to have similar standards for private individuals who are renting out their private pools for public use?”

He also said the new rule DATCP is working on does not hold owners of those properties to the same standards as traditional hotels and lodging businesses.

Watch the hearing:

— A cancer researcher at UW-Madison has been selected for up to $150,000 in funding from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. 

Dr. Shuang (George) Zhao is an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Human Oncology and co-director of the UW Carbone Cancer Center Circulating Biomarker Core. 

Building on Zhao’s background in computer science and engineering, his research laboratory uses advanced sequencing and computing to better understand prostate cancer treatment response and resistance. 

The two-year NCCN award will support his work exploring the response in metastatic prostate cancer to radium-223, a radioactive material used in various cancer treatments. A release announcing the recipients of the 2022 NCCN Foundation’s Young Investigator Awards Program shows Zhao is one of seven researchers getting funding. 

The Zhao Lab in Madison aims to identify biomarkers linked to cancer treatment, which can be used to determine “which patients derive a benefit from treatment, which patients do not and can be spared potential toxicity, as well as monitor for emergence of resistance.” That’s according to a university page detailing his team’s research efforts. 

Dr. Crystal Denlinger, chief scientific officer for NCCN and a prior Young Investigator Award recipient, stressed the importance of early-career funding for researchers. 

“I have seen past YIA investigators go on to make meaningful and lasting contributions to the oncology community,” Denlinger said in a statement. “These awardees are chosen for being some of the best up-and-coming cancer researchers.” 

See more on Zhao’s research here: 

See the NCCN release: 

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— Economic development groups in the state are asking businesses and residents to take an internet speed test to identify where broadband expansion should be focused. 

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., regional planning commissions and economic development groups are seeking broad participation in the speed test by May 8 to help develop a statewide map of internet speeds. 

Brittany Beyer, chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband and executive director of Grow North Regional EDC, calls the map “an excellent tool” for local broadband committees. It will help pinpoint areas of the state where internet speeds fail to meet Federal Communications Commission standards.  

“It offers the most granular information about access currently available, and there is a suite of planning tools local committees can access as they prepare for broadband buildout,” Beyer said in a WEDC release. “Every test gets us closer to a full picture of broadband needs around the state.”

The release notes residents and businesses with no internet access can also contribute by taking the test elsewhere and indicating their address has no available service. 

See the release: 

Take the speed test here: 

— Madison’s Progress Center for Black Women is launching a new program for entrepreneurs called F.O.C.U.S.

The acronym stands for Fundamentals, Opportunities, Consistency, Understanding and Success. 

The program is designed to help Black entrepreneurs get focused on key aspects of running their business while providing a supportive community, tools, training and resources to help their entrepreneurial endeavors grow and succeed.

See more at Madison Startups: 

See more on the organization here: 


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# Incoming UW System president Rothman will retain seats on corporate boards that paid $145K

# Construction of new complex begins after a decade of planning, donations and challenges



– Wisconsin Rural Summit slated this week in Marshfield

– Farmers continue to stand ready to begin fieldwork


– Exact Sciences: Q1 Earnings Snapshot


– Madison School Board approves lease for west side MSCR space

– Rex Academy taking part in national accelerator for education startups

– Revv Aviation’s flight school near Janesville aims to reach a new generation of potential pilots


– Milwaukee Chamber Theatre tries subscription model inspired by D.C. theater to bring audiences back


– Color in the Outdoors wants to open up the natural world to marginalized groups in Wisconsin


– Bartolotta to serve food and drinks out of McKinley Marina Roundhouse this summer

– Bartolotta to open restaurant at McKinley Marina this summer


– Wisconsin health officials highlight tools in ongoing battle against COVID-19

– Wisconsin COVID-19 cases climb, but big hospitalization surge not expected

– COVID-19: Dane County cases grow, bumped to medium-level transmission


– Milwaukee housing authority vouchers to help with affordable home projects

– Event venue planned for downtown West Allis building  

– $17 million development proposal would bring ‘micro condos,’ townhomes to West Allis


– Kohl’s reveals locations for new small-format stores, opens more Sephora shops this week


– Artist painting mural of Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo on downtown Milwaukee building


– Lawmakers approve DOT plan for $280M in federal highway funding


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