October 12, 2012, 2:16 PM — Prince George's Community College in Maryland will use a US$5 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to address a major concern in cybersecurity circles, that the U.S. isn't producing enough qualified security professionals.
The four-year NSF grant, announced in late September, continues a partnership between the agency and the community college. In 2005, the NSF gave the college a grant to set up a regional program called CyberWatch, which as grown to a consortium of 95 colleges and universities and about 50 companies and other organizations focused on educating future cybersecurity professionals.
CyberWatch has received about $5.5 million from the NSF before the newest grant.
"For the past seven years, we've focused on increasing the quantity and quality of the information security workforce," said Casey O'Brien, CyberWatch's director. "The focus is really on workforce impact."
The new grant will help the school broaden its partnerships and develop cybersecurity training programs that can be copied by other colleges, said Charlene Dukes, president of the college. The school will develop training programs that focus on skills that agencies such as the U.S. National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security are looking for, she said.
The community college pushed for the designation as a cybersecurity training center because of its proximity to federal agencies, defense contractors and military bases needing cybersecurity workers, Dukes said.
"When you think about what's going on in the Washington, D.C., area, it was almost a no-brainer to begin to look at what role the college could play in advancing the cybersecurity field," Dukes said. "To us, it was just a natural match."
Many cybersecurity experts have raised concerns in recent years about the number of qualified professionals available in the U.S. Dukes sees the market for security professionals growing as the U.S. government and private companies focus more heavily on the growing threats of cybercrime and cyberterrorism.
Some graduates of PGCC go directly into the cybersecurity workforce and others continue their education at four-year schools, Dukes said. Some students get jobs as systems or network administrators, others work in penetration testing or malware analysis jobs, O'Brien said.
Until recently, many companies and federal agencies had questioned the qualifications of two-year college graduates, but that attitude is changing as hiring managers see a lack of qualified candidates, O'Brien said.