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Majors & Degrees

Workforce Development

November 4, 2020

Dakota State is part of a new coalition that will make a difference in cyber workforce development.

Dr. Wayne Pauli
Dr. Wayne Pauli, Professor of Information Systems and Coordinator for the PhD in Cyber Operations program

“This new National Cybersecurity Workforce Development Program is a ‘win-win’ for all involved,” said Dr. Wayne Pauli, Professor of Information Systems and Coordinator for the PhD in Cyber Operations program.

There is a significant shortage of workforce for cybersecurity, as many as 500,000 nationwide, estimates CyberSeek, a comprehensive cybersecurity workforce analytics website. One potential pool of candidates for these jobs is veterans and first responders who are retiring or transitioning in their careers. With proper training, these individuals could fill cybersecurity work roles in critical infrastructure sectors, including financial services, defense industrial base, and energy sectors.

To address this shortage, the National Security Agency (NSA) recently awarded Dakota State and nine other institutions a $6 million, two-year grant to train these individuals through a revolutionary program. DSU’s portion will be just under $500,000.

Diane M. Janosek, Commandant of the National Security Agency’s National Cryptologic School, spoke at the press conference announcing the award on October 27. “This unique program transitions veterans and first-responders into cybersecurity professionals qualified to shore up critical gaps in our nation’s critical infrastructure sectors,” such as financial services, defense industrial base and energy sectors.

The ten institutions will establish a nationally scalable certificate-based cybersecurity workforce development program that will align with the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Cybersecurity Workforce Framework. Students will develop core competencies and skills through non-credit stackable and verifiable credentials and certificates. Flexible pathways will accommodate participants’ diverse aptitudes, education and experience.

The University of West Florida (UWF) will oversee the program, which will launch in the spring. Along with UWF and DSU, the eight other institutions include Augusta University, Eastern New Mexico University-Ruidoso, Florida International University, University of Houston, Metropolitan State University, San Antonio College, Cyber Florida at the University of South Florida, and the University of Texas at San Antonio. All are designated as National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) in cyber security.

Dakota State has designations in cyber security education, cyber security research, cyber operations, and is a CAE regional resource center. Several of these institutions are collaborating on other grants, including a $3.5 million grant just awarded to DSU for faculty development.

Each institution fills a niche, Pauli stated. Dakota State is known for training faculty and developing great curriculum, he said, so several faculty will be developing curriculum in areas from these basic foundational cybersecurity knowledge concepts, to subject areas including artificial intelligence, machine learning, reverse engineering, and cyber defense.

The content will focus on job skills, said Pauli. This aligns with the benefits brought by corporate partner IBM. “We’re hoping that what we develop will start students speaking the same language as employers,” said Pauli. “It’s great to get that dynamic put together,” he stated.

The time commitment for a student to complete a program goal could be up to nine months, Pauli said, depending on their work responsibilities and life situation; students could also take just one module as their interest dictates. Estimates are the program will serve 200 participants in the first year, and 415 additional participants in year two.

Through this grant, “we’ll be attracting a whole new population to DSU with the focus on this particular audience,” said Pauli. “This could make a good jumping off point for people to get started with their cybersecurity education.”

For more information about the UWF Center for Cybersecurity, visit uwf.edu/cybersecurity. To inquire about student or employer participation in the workforce program, contact cybersecurity@uwf.edu.

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