Virginia Governor Terry R. McAuliffe hosted a cyber roundtable discussion on August 31 at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at NOVA’s Alexandria Campus. This roundtable was the second in a series of roundtables McAuliffe has organized to promote his Meet the Threat: States Confront the Cyber Challenge initiative as chair of the National Governors Association (NGA).
“Since the beginning of my administration, I have focused on protecting the Commonwealth from cyberattacks, including high-risk targets like schools and financial databases, as well as improving our communications infrastructure and investing in critical workforce skill development,” McAuliffe said. “These roundtables are designed to address the specific needs and challenges of the cyber sector and workforce development in Virginia. With thousands of high-paying, new jobs to fill in this sector, it is imperative that our workforce programs are adequately training Virginians in cyber fields to meet the needs of our new Virginia economy.”
McAuliffe emphasized that there are 37,000 technology jobs open in the Commonwealth and 17,000 of them are cyber jobs. He explained that one of the core issues that he would like to focus on is figuring out an educational component to help build the skill set to fill those open positions.
During the roundtable, 30 cyber experts and educators discussed challenges, ideas and possible solutions for funding higher education programs, developing programs for K-12 students and bridging the gap between the private sector and higher education. Roundtable participants included college presidents, education leaders and a number of cybersecurity industry CEOs.
NOVA President Scott Ralls and Vice President of Workforce Development Steve Partridge also contributed to the discussion as well as Dr. Margaret Leary, director of NOVA’s Cybersecurity Program. Alexandria Provost M. Annette Haggray also attended the event. Ralls highlighted that NOVA has 847 students enrolled in its cyber program and one idea to consider is to make partnerships with those who work in the private sector and allow them to become adjunct faculty for college cyber programs.
“There are different ways to leverage the support of those in the private sector to be able to contribute to our programs and support us,” Ralls said. “We certainly want to continue to grow our program and bring in more students but we want to make sure we’re also growing in quality so that includes bringing in full-time instructors to help us move the program forward. We also want to reach out to high schools more and make sure pathways are created.”
NOVA developed the first cybersecurity associate degree in Virginia, one that is hard-skills based with 49 IT/cyber credits, and it transfers in full to six partner institutions. NOVA’s 55,000 square-foot Regional Center for Workforce Education and Training in Woodbridge is working to establish a “cyber range” that will allow real-time simulation of network attacks to train students to recognize and defend assets, as well as assess and certify hard skills competencies.
McAuliffe has been NGA chair since 2016, and his Meet the Threat initiative encourages all 50 states to discuss and collaborate on finding solutions to the cyber threats facing the nation. For more information about the Meet the Threat initiative, visit NGA’s website.