USC Aiken Meets Needs of Cyber Employers
Aiken, SC (08/20/2018) — The cyber workforce in the region is growing exponentially, and educational institutions at all levels, including the University of South Carolina Aiken, are doing what they can to ensure those entering this critical field are equipped and ready.
"The United States needs immediate and sustained improvements in its cyber security workforce situation," according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology website.
This government agency says "employers increasingly are concerned about the relevance of cybersecurity-related education programs in meeting the needs of their organization."
As part of an ongoing series, the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization recently hosted "Cyber and Education Connections," a regional cyber industry workforce forum focused on growing and sustaining the cybersecurity workforce.
"Our purpose is to continue a regional discussion on workforce," said Mindy Mets, manager for SRSCRO's Nuclear Workforce Initiative.
"We want to provide clarity about cyber workforce needs and regional education and training programs and strengthen regional connections between employers and educators."
Dr. Chad Leverette, interim dean of the College of Sciences and Engineering at USC Aiken participated in a panel discussion, specifically focused on how cyber workforce needs might be changing education - both in terms of population shifts and preparation of the future workforce. Other educational leaders from local school districts, technical schools and universities also participated in the panel, moderated by Distinguished Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Tom Hallman.
"Our focus is to provide the highest quality liberal arts focused STEM education possible that meets regional needs," said Leverette.
"We are consistently and constantly working with local employers and industry on developing programs for students that meet our regional workforce needs."
He says that USC Aiken wants to be "proactive and responsive" by staying engaged with local employers, asking what skills or expertise they need and what type of employee they want.
"From concept, to development of curriculum, to capstone projects and internshps, to job placement, we partner with industry to develop needed programs."
One prime example is in the area of cyber. USC Aiken recently announced that this fall, the university will offer three new degree tracks: applied computer science for programming, applied computer science with a concentration in applied gaming, and applied computer science with a concentration in cybersecurity.
The degrees were established and developed based on input from several companies, including Janus Research Group, Rural Sourcing, Inc., Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the Savannah River National Laboratory, and SC Cyber, just to name a few.
"As the area of cyber continues to evolve and technology pushes us forward, we will have to be flexible to make sure our programs continue to meet the needs of the industry," Leverette said.
"This is done by having close partnerships and conversations with those in the private and public sectors so they can continue to share with us what they need from our graduates."
Not only is the industry interested in cyber, but Leverette said the students are too. He adds that to go into these related degree programs, students need strong math skills and broader skills and ability in a variety of STEM subjects.
He says that more companies willing to partner and invest in students at all levels will help ensure success in cyber-related fields.
"Partnerships are mutually beneficial. We want to grow our partnerships. This is how we create unique and meaningful opportunities for our students. Our students can meet the workforce needs," Leverette said.
"They also possess the knowledge and skills of a liberal arts-based education to meet the long-term evolved needs of this technological field. Our students have the ability to translate and adapt their skill sets to the changing needs of cyber."
As part of the SRSCRO's day-long forum, other discussions centered on growing and sustaining the cybersecurity workforce included: how the cyber sector growth is influencing regional economic development and the specific needs of public and private employers.