Cybersecurity training puts jobs within reach


By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. Rottweiler

As investigations of interference in the U.S. election process make headlines, Cochise College enters its 13th year of educating students in the area of cybersecurity. Later this month, we’ll celebrate what we’ve been able to build by bringing our current cyber students together with industry experts and program graduates for an evening of networking and learning from the pros.

The cybersecurity program Cochise offers today evolved from an information security program that began in 2004. It falls under the computer information systems umbrella, which enrolls more than 1,500 annually and also includes Cisco training; computer maintenance, repair and programming; Linux; networking; and web development. Currently, 185 students have chosen cybersecurity as their major. Graduates have found positions with military contractors and government agencies. They’re often employable after just a few classes.

Graduates will share their experiences and advice in a Jan. 25 cyber event aimed at preparing current cybersecurity students both for their college education and the workplace. Some of them got a foot in the door by participating in auxiliary college cyber activities, which continue today. For example, 200 to 300 local youth annually participate in the Computer Challenge at the Sierra Vista Campus. Through a partnership with AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association), CIS faculty coordinate community volunteers and organize competitions and theory tests in computer fundamentals, information security, programming, digital graphics and desktop publishing, PC repair, speaking, and interviewing.

The college also is actively engaged with the Air Force Association (AFA) CyberPatriot program, in which high school students compete in exercises designed to teach them to remediate technological vulnerabilities. Twenty-eight of Arizona’s 71 CyberPatriot teams – or 40 percent – are trained here at Cochise College.

Important partnerships have helped fund progress in cybersecurity training at Cochise. A National Science Foundation Engineering Pathways Partnership Project grant has funded curriculum redesign with an industry advisory council. A $100,000 Youth CareerConnect Department of Labor grant funded opportunities for Center for Academic Success and Buena High School students taking cyber courses at Cochise. It also helped with the cost of equipment, primarily servers and removable solid-state drives.

In addition to two Sierra Vista Campus cybersecurity classrooms, an additional classroom will soon turn into a dynamic workspace for students to tackle cybersecurity challenges as teams. Students will work in a cyber range to test high-level cyber technologies and in an Internet of Things lab that includes connected devices that seldom are considered when developing a security plan for an organization. Think Amazon Echo devices that are always on and connected and waiting for a voice command.

Finally, Cochise has added a new full-time cybersecurity faculty position recently filled by former Engility Section Manager Mike McLain, who will facilitate the industry panel at the college’s cybersecurity event this month. The industry panel includes representatives from the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) and Fort Huachuca, NCI, Northrop Grumman, Engility and Raytheon, which is now offering a scholarship and internship for transitioning soldiers.

During my time here at Cochise, community and national demand for cybersecurity has increased tremendously and we have made every effort to ensure our cyber students are well-prepared to enter this dynamic space. It’s the passion and expertise of college faculty and staff who have not only helped the institution meet those needs, but also kept the college at the forefront of this increasingly important industry.

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.