On September 13, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) hosted its inaugural meeting for its Cybersecurity Advisory Board at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center at NOVA’s Alexandria Campus. Governor Terry McAuliffe and NOVA President Scott Ralls also participated in the discussion.
The purpose of the newly-formed advisory board is to ensure that the Commonwealth’s two-year cyber curriculum imparts the real-world skills that employers need most by leveraging expertise from the federal government, Virginia’s rapidly growing cybersecurity sector and industries most affected by cyber threats. VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois said the advisory board really has a statewide reach.
Joe Pine, a senior associate with Booz Allen Hamilton and chair of the Cybersecurity Advisory Board, said this first-in-the-nation initiative will allow prospective cybersecurity professionals to receive training that is specifically tailored to the requirements and needs of their future employers.
“Giving students the skills they need to succeed in cutting-edge industries like cybersecurity has been at the center of this administration’s approach to workforce development and economic growth,” McAuliffe said. “Cybersecurity isn’t just a concern in high-tech industries, it’s a day-to-day consideration for any company with a computer. With this initiative, we are strengthening communications between Virginia‘s educational institutions and the employers who will hire the students they train. By tailoring our instructional approach to the skills employers need today, we can help more Virginians land good jobs after school and attract more employers to the Commonwealth to cement our position as a global leader in the cyber industry.”
DuBois explained that the Cybersecurity Advisory Board will partner with Virginia’s K-12 community and the four-year colleges and universities to streamline the state’s cyber education efforts. Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen R. Jackson said there are 36,000 open cyber jobs in the Commonwealth, so it is imperative to build and create partnerships with security professionals to ensure educational offerings and hands-on training are aligned with business needs.
Ralls also emphasized the importance of partnerships with organizations and other higher education institutions – such as the military, various community leaders, Old Dominion University and George Mason University – because those partnerships make NOVA’s cybersecurity program unique and help to recruit students who are interested in cybersecurity.
During the meeting, the board members discussed some challenges with recruiting new hires who can “hit the ground running” when working in the cyber field; they also discussed different ways to ensure cyber program students are properly trained and ready for the industry. The board also discussed major progress already made among the higher education institutions in Virginia, including the five community colleges in VCCS that achieved national accreditation: NOVA, Lord Fairfax Community College, Tidewater Community College, Danville Community College and Thomas Nelson Community College.
More than 40 people were in attendance and contributed to the discussion, including Alexandria Provost Annette Haggray and NOVA Cybersecurity Program Head Margaret Leary.