Wanda Samuels likes a challenge, so the retired real estate broker started the cybersecurity program at Augusta Technical College. And he knows the importance of this work.
“Every aspect of your life involves cyber, you know it or not,” Samuels said. “It’s everywhere.”
His path to a new career will become much shorter starting Thursday, as he participated in the inaugural Georgia Cyber Center WorkForces program.
With a $ 8 million four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, the cyber center hopes to achieve the transition of military, veterans and military spouses like Samuel to a cyber training and certification program in information technology and skills cybernetics. In particular, they would like to reach the unemployed, including those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and the underemployed, those who could have a job, “but it is not really a job that allows them to maximize their skills or work in the maximum potential, ”said Nicole Cliff, Cyber DevOps engineer at the center and interim director of training for the program.
The “career-ready” program will be customized based on the level of training and skills participants have, he said. Those, such as Samuels, who have never worked in a technical field, will receive new skills training that will allow them to be a computer supporter or an input computer person, while those with technical training will be able to “improve” to allow ‘ls work in entry-level cybersecurity positions, Cliff said. Part of the program includes companies that would welcome new certificates to apprenticeships, he said.
“Not only will we provide them with the training and opportunity to validate their knowledge with a certification, but we will marry them to an employer,” Cliff said. This will allow them to get the training and work experience that some companies require for a full-time position and will also allow companies to assess whether they keep the participant to themselves, he said.
“This is something of the best of both worlds,” Cliff said.
A real need is also addressed. Cybersecurity Ventures predicted there will be 3.5 million uncovered cybersecurity sites worldwide this year, 350% more than in 2014, the company said.
“We realize from the formal education process that there will only be so many people graduating from cybersecurity engineering programs and computer programs that will fill the gap,” Cliff said.
That’s one of the reasons why MOSAIC Technologies Group, a national cybersecurity company that has been in Augusta since 2008, is interested in building the staff, said C. Priest Perry IV, director of NSA Georgia Operations. The company wants to “build the cyber workforce at CSRA so we can essentially build a workforce with our partners that supports the work we do,” he said. Training could allow someone to join the cyber field or gain the skills needed to climb the field, Perry said.
No doubt the importance of this work has been taken home because of recent breaches, such as the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack and others that have been made public, Cliff said.
“Cybersecurity is every day in every business,” he said. “If there’s something connected, it means there’s a realm of cybersecurity.”
And that means there needs to be people to counter those threats, Perry said.
“The need for this kind of support for our country and for the local area is absolutely necessary,” he said. And there is a need to “make sure we form this staff with qualified and trained people for the talent needed to ensure we are able to protect our local area and our nation.”