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Future of Bossier’s job market forecasted at special event

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Bossier Parish Police Juror Jack "Bump" Skaggs speaks at the Cyber: Job Creation and Elimination breakfast held Wednesday. (Courtesy of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce)

The future of northwest Louisiana’s economy was forecasted during a special breakfast Wednesday morning.

The Cyber: Job Creation and Elimination breakfast was held at the Louisiana Tech Academic Success Center in Bossier City’s National Cyber Research Park.

Local experts discussed what careers are being created in and eliminated by the cyber field, and what north Louisiana is doing on the local level to prepare.

Bossier Parish Police Juror and Director of the Coordinating and Development Corporation Jack “Bump” Skaggs said cyber is the next industrial revolution and the area has to be focused on what careers will be created.

“Our talent is leaving. When you talk to them, it’s the same thing: ‘I didn’t have opportunity.’ The creation of cyber was an opportunity to keep families together,” said Skaggs.

Louisiana Tech Professor Dr. Sumeet Dua spoke about higher education’s efforts to train the workforce in cyber fields.

“You need these people to go out there and play — set up systems, break them, hack them, go back again and set up a network and test it. That’s what you need and that’s what is happening at Louisiana Tech,” said Dr. Dua.

He said the world is connected and everything done in cyber furthers those connections. He noted that on average, North American citizens have eight internet-connected devices per person.

“We are surrounded by data. They are becoming the fabric of our life,” said Dr. Dua.

That is why he concluded that cyber security is more important than ever, becoming a national security problem.

“Everything we do has implications. So if we have to create any program, cyber security would be a key part of that. And I’m so glad we’re here with a shared ecosystem between companies, the Cyber Innovation Center, and (higher education) to create those solutions,” Dr. Dua said.

Thomas Bush, a summer intern at the CDC, spoke about concepts he developed regarding what jobs are coming so the area can better prepare for it.

A Bossier native who grew up being introduced to cyber in K-12, is a Bossier Parish Community College student who is on the track to progress to Louisiana Tech for his cyber engineering degree.

“I am very technology-based and Cyber is where the money is at. I would like to do something to help the government be more secure,” he said.

He forecasted that retail, freight distribution, restaurant managers, commercial airline pilots, CEOs, and pharmacists are all careers that are evaporating. Because automation and workforce efficiency have lowered need for particular jobs.

“A company doesn’t have to pay the big bucks to a guy to manage a lot of people, they only have to pay for the guy to manage five people,” Bush said. “Like most task-heavy jobs, they are going away. But critical thinking jobs have longevity.”

But he noted that farmers, care providers, teachers, scientists, and lawyers and politicians are safe.

Future professions he expects to emerge are drone pilots, currency advisors, digital locksmithx, food engineers, organ harvesters, and cyber security experts.

Bush concluded his speech by quoting research from Cybersecurity Ventures. Their research says that by 2020 there are expected to be 3.5 million job openings in cyber.

Skaggs noted that the impetus to create the cyber industry in Bossier began in 2006 with the news that Barksdale Air Force Base was in the running for a new major cyber command. He said that spurred local leaders to create the Cyber Innovation Center, and then to pivot towards building a new industry when the opportunity for cyber command went away.

They saw an opportunity to build an economic leg where it wasn’t dependent on the military, healthcare, or oil and gas. The goal was to let someone build a foot print and then expand through public-private partnership,” Skaggs said.

Barksdale was then awarded the new major command in USAF Global Strike Command, which complimented the work being done by the CIC.

“The local leaders saw the future and saw how we can partner with Barksdale. This community is committed to doing whatever it takes to keeping the base happy so the Air Force wants to keep the base here and grow it,” said Skaggs. “We were given Global Strike Command and their missions there tied into cyber…It’s led to the things you see today.”

He noted that CIC is now full and the location of GDIT and its hundreds of jobs in the National Cyber Research Park is a “testament to the folks who work there and this environment.”

“Hopefully we can continue to push public private partnership to keep the economic leg moving forward,” he added.