Forsyth Tech’s Cybersecurity Program Receives $156,000 from NSA to Launch Regional Training, Pilot K-12 Initiative

Elementary and Secondary Program Designed as National Model

Forsyth Technical Community College has received $156,000 from the National Security Agency (NSA) that will fund two initiatives designed to expand training for and awareness of careers in the cybersecurity industry.

  • Approximately $125,000 will be used to develop and administer workshops and professional development programs designed to train cybersecurity faculty in the region using a combination of face-to-face, live-streaming and hybrid training classes. The first class will be offered in spring 2017.
  • The remaining $30,000 will support the creation of a pilot training program this fall aimed at primary and secondary school students. The program, called the Cybersecurity K-12 Pathway Initiative, will introduce students to digital security issues at younger ages in order to build potential career interest in this burgeoning field. This initiative is scheduled for implementation in January 2017 with an additional $90,000 in NSA funding.

The funding of these two programs follows the announcement last month that the NSA named Forsyth Tech a Cybersecurity Regional Resource Center (CRRC), one of six community colleges around the country whose cybersecurity programs had previously been designated a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE). Forsyth Tech’s center covers the southeast region, which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Puerto Rico.

Forsyth Tech is developing professional workshops that will include classes on how community college faculty can obtain a CAE designation for their cybersecurity programs as well as professional development workshops in data analytics, cryptography, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisitions (SCADA), and the Internet Of Things.

“The CAE in Cyber Defense Education award is highly sought after,” says Dr. Deanne Wesley, department chair, Davis iTEC Center/Cybersecurity Center and department coordinator, Information System Security. “This designation, issued jointly by the NSA and Department of Homeland Security, is one of the ways we hope to build a pipeline of students trained to enter the cybersecurity field and help fill the anticipated 1.5 million open jobs in the cybersecurity profession by the year 2020.”

The Cybersecurity K-12 Pathway Initiative is another way Forsyth Tech hopes to help meet industry shortfalls.

“Through this pilot program, we want to introduce young students to the profession by creating awareness of the issues and career opportunities, using different strategies for the different age groups,” Wesley says.

“For example, at the elementary school level, we will develop programs aimed at teaching these students how to be safe online, how to use tablets, and what sites not to visit, using relatable graphics, such as cartoons.

“We are going to engage with middle schools and high school students by creating age-appropriate classes in cybersecurity, assigning them Forsyth Tech cybersecurity students as mentors, organizing field trips to visit Forsyth Tech’s cybersecurity facilities, and helping the schools start their own cybersecurity event or club. The high school classes will be designed to articulate to Forsyth Tech where students can earn an industry certificate for successful completion of required work.”

Another soon-to-be named CRRC-designated community college will be working collaboratively with Forsyth Tech this fall on developing a pilot K-12 curriculum. Based on outcomes, the colleges will merge their best practices.

“If our two colleges can create a successful model, then it will be rolled out across the nation, so there’s a lot riding on this initiative” Wesley says. “And, if Forsyth Tech can demonstrate success within the first year, the NSA will award us an additional $90,000 to implement and refine the program in year two.”

“The support and recognition Forsyth Tech’s Cybersecurity program is receiving at the regional and national level demonstrate the college’s leadership in advanced technology education,” says Forsyth Tech president Gary Green. “If we’re not looking ahead to tomorrow by educating the young students of today for jobs that don’t yet exist, then we’re already lagging behind.”