As the national demand for cybersecurity and other information technology services continues to grow, Prince George’s Community College remains at the forefront.
The Largo college’s National CyberWatch Security Center has received its second $5 million National Science Foundation grant to continue its programming for the next four years. The foundation supports CyberWatch in its mission to increase the quality and size of the cybersecurity workforce.
CyberWatch was established in 2005 and has grown to 95 member education institutions across 29 states and Washington, D.C., and more than 40 corporate and government partners.
The program, which focuses on the Greater Washington metropolitan area, has received about $8 million to date, including the original $5 million grant that started the program and the first $2.7 million installment of the new grant, the center’s director, Casey O’Brien, said Monday. The remaining $2.3 million is to be distributed in fiscal 2014 and ’15, he said.
“This certainly articulates the confidence the National Science Foundation has in the college to carry out the program’s requirements,” said Charlene M. Dukes, president of Prince George’s Community College.
Since its creation, the center has educated more than 5,000 students, O’Brien said.
He said it is difficult for the center to establish clear goals for workforce numbers because the country still is struggling to delineate job roles for cybersecurity.
Within the larger sector of information technology, Maryland has the fifth-highest concentration of workers in the nation. About 80 out of every 1,000 private-sector workers are employed by Maryland’s high-tech industry, according to the state’s 2010 CyberMaryland report. More than 60,000 jobs are in the computer systems design industry, a linchpin of cybersecurity activities.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology of Gaithersburg has been working on an initiative to better define cybersecurity job roles.
O’Brien said CyberWatch will help develop educational programs and credit-transfer agreements between two- and four-year schools to meet the requirements decided for those roles.
CyberWatch contributes to this workforce demand through curriculum developed for educational institutions, grades K-12 initiatives and current credit-transfer agreements, O’Brien said.
He said the new money will be used to build on the center’s “culture of collaboration.”
“We want to help promote discussions about cybersecurity as a profession,” O’Brien said.
CyberWatch also is looking into programs that let high school students double up on high school and college courses and exploring ways to get students interested in cybersecurity before high school.
“Studies show most kids decide on their career path around the fourth grade,” O’Brien said.
CyberWatch also faces some particular regional challenges of ensuring the workforce is clearance-ready to match Maryland’s proximity to the federal government, he said.
Maryland cybersecurity leaders will be gathering at the CyberMaryland 2012 conference Tuesday and Wednesday at the Baltimore Convention Center. Among those scheduled to speak are Michael Daniel, cyber coordinator and special assistant to President Barack Obama; U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) of Baltimore; Gov. Martin O’Malley (D); Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Dist. 2) of Cockeysville; and Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Dukes said this latest grant “lands another feather in the cap of Maryland at one of its community colleges.”