Georgia Cyber Center Readies Students for Cybersecurity Jobs

Funded by an $8 million, four-year federal grant, the inaugural WorkForces program through the Georgia Cyber Center aims to give marketable job skills in high-demand careers to those who lost jobs during the pandemic.

Georgia Cyber Center
Georgia Cyber Center
(TNS) — Wanda Samuels likes a challenge, so the retired real estate broker began the cybersecurity program at Augusta Technical College. And she knows how important that work is.

"Every aspect of your life involves cyber, whether you know it or not," Samuels said. "It's just everywhere."

Her pathway to a new career is going to get a lot shorter beginning Thursday as she took part in the inaugural Georgia Cyber Center WorkForces program.

Using an $8 million, four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, the cyber center is hoping to get transitioning military, veterans and military spouses like Samuels into a cyber training program and certification in Informational Technology and Cyber skills. In particular they would like to reach the unemployed, including those who have lost jobs because of the pandemic, and the underemployed, those who might have a job "but it's really not a job that allows them to maximize their skillset or work to their full potential," said Nicole Cliff, Cyber DevOps Engineer at the center and interim director of training for the program.

The "career-ready" program will be customized for the level of training and skills the participants have coming in, she said. Those, like Samuels, who have never worked in a technical field will get new skill training that would allow them to be a computer support or entry-level IT person while those with some technical training will be able to "upskill" to allow them to work in entry-level cybersecurity positions, Cliff said. Part of the program includes companies that would welcome the newly certified into apprenticeship positions, she said.

"Not only do we provide them with the training and the opportunity to validate their skillset with a certification but then we will marry them with an employer," Cliff said. That will allow them to get on-the-job training and experience some companies require for a full-time position and also allow the companies to evaluate whether to keep the participant for themselves, she said.

"That's kind of the best of both worlds," Cliff said.

It is also addressing a real need. Cybersecurity Ventures predicted there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions worldwide this year, up 350 percent from 2014, the company said.

"We realize from the formal education process, there will be only so many people who graduate from cybersecurity engineering programs and computer science programs that will fill the gap," Cliff said.

That is one reason MOSAIC Technologies Group, a national cybersecurity firm that has been in Augusta since 2008, is interested in building up the workforce, said C. Priest Perry IV, director of NSA Georgia Operations. The company wants "to build the cyber workforce in the CSRA so that we can essentially build a workforce with our partners that will support the work that we do," he said. The training could allow someone to join the cyber field or get the skills to move up in the field, Perry said.

The importance of this work has certainly been brought home by the recent breaches, such as the Colonial Pipeline cyber attack and others that have become public, Cliff said.

"Cybersecurity is in every business every day," she said. "If something is connected, that means that there is a realm of cybersecurity there."

And that means there needs to be people to counter those threats, Perry said.

"The need for this type of support for our country and for the local area absolutely is there," he said. And there is a need "to ensure that we build this workforce up with qualified individuals trained to the talent required to ensure that we are able to protect our local area as well as our nation."

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