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Community colleges get $15M for cybersecurity

Maryland officials now have another reason to declare the state the nation’s cybersecurity capital: a $15 million federal grant to enhance cybersecurity training programs at community colleges.

The money — $14,957,899 to be exact — will be split among 14 of Maryland’s 16 community colleges, which came together to form the Cyber Technology Pathways Across Maryland Consortium (C-PAM).

The colleges will use the funds to develop a more advanced cybersecurity curriculum that will then be implemented at each campus, said Steve Greenfield, dean of workforce development and continuing education at Montgomery College, which is leading the consortium.

“We wanted to develop a statewide pathway, a universal approach to cybersecurity education that all community colleges will have,” Greenfield said. “There will be some differences from college to college, but on the whole, we want to develop a consistent curriculum that reflects what employers need in the real world.”

The schools also plan to stock their tech labs with the most up-to-date equipment, hire more faculty so they can serve more students, provide extra advising and counseling services and help coordinate more student internships with local companies.

Most of the colleges in the consortium already offer some form of cybersecurity training, either as standalone programs or combined with information technology programs.

“But some colleges don’t [have cybersecurity programs],” Greenfield said. “So we want to build them at those that don’t, and enhance them at colleges that do.”

The consortium submitted an application earlier this year for the grant, which is from the Employment and Training Administration within the U.S. Department of Labor. The recipients were announced at the end of September.

It was the fourth round of awards under what’s called the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative.

Since that initiative began four years ago, federal officials have awarded a total of nearly $2 billion in grants to hundreds of colleges nationwide. The goal is to nudge community colleges to focus on a high-demand industry in their particular area.

One of the requirements of the grant initiative is that applicants engage the private sector at every step of the way, from designing the proposal to implementing the changes.

The Maryland colleges worked with 38 local employers, including big-names like Lockheed Martin, MedStar Health and IBM, as well as a number of smaller companies.

“We asked them, ‘What skills can’t you find? What are the missing pieces keeping you from filling those jobs?’” Greenfield said, referring to the estimated 130,000 unfilled cybersecurity positions statewide. “Our main goal is for our colleges to keep pace with what’s going on in the real world.”

The $15 million will be distributed over four years, with benchmarks the colleges must meet along the way. The first year is for development and preparation; the revamped cybersecurity offerings will be available by fall 2015, Greenfield said.

At Montgomery College, about 200 students are enrolled in the cybersecurity program. That number could jump to 700 by 2016, Greenfield estimated. All together, the 14 colleges expect to serve 2,000 students by the fourth year.

About Alissa Gulin

Alissa Gulin covers health care, education and general business at The Daily Record.