Community College Granted $5 Million to Train Cybersecurity Professionals

The US National Science Foundation just gave $5 million grant to Prince George’s Community College in Maryland to address a major concern in cybersecurity circles. This four-year grant was announced in late September and is a part of the partnership between the community college and the NSF. In 2005 the agency gave the college a grant to set up CyberWatch, a regional program which focused on educating future cybersecurity professionals. The program has grown to a consortium of 95 colleges and universities and about 50 companies and other organizations. It also has received nearly $5.5 million from the NSF before the recent grant.

Casey O’Brien, the director of CyberWatch said: “For the past seven years, we’ve focused on increasing the quantity and quality of the information security workforce. The focus is really on workforce impact.”

The school will use the money to broaden its partnerships and develop cybersecurity training programs that can be shared with other colleges, said Charlene Dukes, president of the college. The school will develop training programs that focus on skills that agencies such as the U.S. National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security are looking for, she said.

And also according to Dukes, because of its proximity to federal agencies, defense contractors and military bases needing cybersecurity workers, the community college pushed for the designation as a cybersecurity training center.

Because of the lack of qualified professionals available in the US, concerns have been raised by many cyberssecurity experts in recent years. With the growing threats of cybercrime and cyberterrorism, the market for security professionals will be growing as well.

According to Dukes, some graduates of Prince George’s Community Colleg go directly into the cybersecurity workforce and others continue their education at four-year schools. Some students get jobs as systems or network administrators, others work in penetration testing or malware analysis jobs, O’Brien said. Until recently, many companies and federal agencies had questioned the qualifications of two-year college graduates, but that attitude is changing as hiring managers see a lack of qualified candidates.

In addition to partnerships with other colleges, CyberWatch also works with several school districts to provide cybersecurity programs for students as young as elementary school. The program also offers after-school programs and summer camps to get students interested in technology careers.

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