$20k Grant from Microsoft, American Association of Community Colleges Leads to Cyber Skills for All

There’s a cybersecurity skills crisis in the U.S. CPTC is part of the solution to expand the cybersecurity workforce and help protect our most essential services.

By Jean Borst

Clover Park Technical College, with campuses in Lakewood and Puyallup, WA, received a grant from the American Association of Community Colleges and Microsoft to bolster Clover Park’s efforts to prepare students for the digital economy. As a part of the community of practice, Clover Park will work directly with AACC, Microsoft and other experts as they expand cyber programming as part of a locally responsive economic development strategy. CPTC is one of only 14 schools selected for the initial cohort, which will grow to 42 institutions over the next two years.

“Building a robust workforce pipeline benefits both students and local businesses,” said Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. “We are pleased to partner with Microsoft to help build a national workforce pipeline and directly support the nation’s community colleges with industry developed curriculum and training that helps them to teach the skills needed for a career in the high demand field of cyber security. Community colleges are well positioned to help the technology industry train and hire a skilled and diverse workforce across the country.”

Building on innovative programs

The prestigious selection brings with it a $20,000 grant that will be used to bolster curriculum within CPTC’s Network Operations and System Security (NOSS) and Mechatronics programs. The funds will also help leverage CPTC’s already-strong partnerships with employers who need trained and skilled cybersecurity workers, and identify ways to better support female students training for cybersecurity careers.

As the voice of the nation’s community colleges, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), delivers educational and economic opportunity for nearly 12 million diverse students in search of the American Dream. Uniquely dedicated to access and success for all students, AACC’s member colleges provide an on-ramp to degree attainment, skilled careers and family-supporting wages. Located in Washington, D.C., AACC advocates for these not-for-profit, public-serving institutions to ensure they have the resources and support they need to deliver on the mission of increasing economic mobility for all.

“This initiative fosters cross-pollination of two of our largest and most innovative programs and better serves our diverse community of current and future students,” said CPTC President Dr. Joyce Loveday. “This is crucial for our robust local manufacturing and logistics sectors and growing cybersecurity industry.”

The CPTC team leading this work are Dr. Claire Korschinowski, Dean of Instruction; NOSS instructor Jeffrey Turner; and Mechatronics instructors Carl Wenngren and Jason Sawatzki.

Protecting essential services

Enhanced curriculum and training developed by CPTC will focus on industrial control systems (ICS) and system control and data acquisition systems (SCADA), which are typically used to control water purification and power plants.

“In the past, these systems were thought to be too isolated to pose a security concern,” Turner said. “But today, like most things, they are universally connected to the internet and vulnerable to ever-increasing cyber threats.”

Disruptions to water and power systems can have profound effects, including contamination, operational malfunction and service outages. Recent hacking incidents in Florida and California exposed the weaknesses of U.S. water systems and the risk of attacks by cyber criminals.

Microsoft is working with community colleges and nonprofits to help close the cybersecurity skills gap. Learn more HERE.

Clover Park Technical College is uniquely positioned to develop and deliver ICS and SCADA security training, Turner noted. The college is grounded in manufacturing technology, new mechatronics technology and cybersecurity. And its campuses are located near some of the most exceptional cybersecurity and manufacturing work being done in the world.

“Community colleges are critical to expanding the cybersecurity workforce in the United States,” said Naria Santa Lucia, Microsoft General Manager for Digital Inclusion and U.S. Community Engagement. “We’re proud to support the American Association of Community Colleges and these community colleges as they accelerate their cybersecurity programs.”

Helping meet a national need

The Cyber Security Skills for All initiative is part of a national campaign launched by Microsoft in October 2021. The company will invest millions of dollars and other resources in U.S. community colleges to help train as many as 250,000 cybersecurity workers by 2025.

It’s a lofty, yet essential, goal. There are currently more than 464,000 open jobs in the country that require cybersecurity skills. The average annual pay for cybersecurity specialists is $105,800.

Learn more about CPTC’s Network Operations and System Security (NOSS) and Mechatronics programs.