Two-hundred-ninety attendees packed the new Regional Center for Workforce Education and Training (RCWET) Wednesday at Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge Campus. The day-long “Commonwealth Conference on Cyber and Education,” drew legislators, educators and corporate technology experts from throughout Virginia.
Among the noted guests were Karen Jackson, Virginia’s Secretary of Technology and co-chair of the Commonwealth Cyber Commission; Richard Clarke, CEO of Good Harbor Security Risk Management, co-chair of the Commonwealth Cyber Commission; Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.
Sen. Warner told attendees that it is necessary to capitalize on an era where there are two Virginia senators and a Virginia governor who get along and work together. We must collaborate to work well with state and federal resources, he said. Warner noted the material cybersecurity threat is as great a threat as any other we face in the world. He said there are two kinds of businesses—those that know they have been hacked and those who don’t know it but were.
“We must do three things,” Warner said, “We must focus on the pipeline of talent into public and private sector partnerships. Once in the field, we need to create ways to move back and forth between public and private sector at various points in a person’s career. Finally, we need to concentrate on innovation and create centers for private innovation.”
Following two panels on filling the cyber talent pipeline from the private sector and federal perspectives and a panel outlining the need for educational institutions to become “Cyber Center for Excellence” certified, Governor Terry McAuliffe took to the podium.
McAuliffe said he wants to make Virginia the global leader in cybersecurity. Virginia is currently second to California, and he does not like to be second.
“My slogan is ‘Building a New Virginia economy,’” he said. “I am dead set on making Virginia the leader in cybersecurity.”
McAuliffe said that he will release his two-year budget on Dec. 17. In that budget he is proposing funding for cyber professors and academic chairs as well as for student scholarships. If his budget is approved, Virginia will pay for two years of community college for those focusing on cybersecurity, as long as they promise to give back two years to the state after graduation.
McAuliffe noted that NOVA was the first two-year community college to become a Cyber Center of Excellence in 2011, and that Lord Fairfax, who received their designation last month, was the second. McAuliffe wants all 23 VCCS schools to hold this important distinction.
NOVA takes very seriously its responsibility to train highly-qualified graduates to enter the high-tech workforce in this region.
NOVA developed the first AAS Cybersecurity degree in the Commonwealth, one that is hard-skills based with 49 IT/Cyber credits, but it transfers in full to six partner institutions. Within one year of offering this degree program, NOVA had more than 500 students enrolled.
Also, McAuliffe’s budget calls to stand up a cyber range. There will be one virtual platform for all our institutions to use, and educational institutions will be learning from business and government.
NOVA is developing these “Cyber Range” capabilities that will allow us to provide real-time, simulations of network attacks to train students to recognize and defend assets, as well as assess and certify hard skills competencies. Students in NOVA’s cyberlab will use specialized software installed on a closed network, allowing them to practice “safe hacking” to learn how criminals think and work.
McAuliffe ended his remarks by exhorting educators, “Change your curriculum to meet what we need today. Not what we needed ten or twenty years ago,” he said. “Government cyber assets need to come to Virginia. Will there be workers once they send their assets here?”
Just as Gov. McAuliffe is unwilling to settle for second, NOVA’s goal is to be recognized as the number one cyber community college in the nation.
According to NOVA’s new president, Dr. Scott Ralls, “We will do this through our state-of-the-art facilities, like the Regional Center for Workforce Education and Training; through our exceptionally strong university, state, federal and corporate partners; and through our faculty, staff and students who make NOVA the innovation center of this region.”