A cybersecurity education initiative through the University of North Georgia (UNG) aims to strengthen workforce opportunities in Georgia and fill critical staffing shortages in private industry, as well as in the Georgia Army National Guard, the U.S. Army and entities at all levels of government. The state of Georgia is home to more than 115 information security companies generating more than $4.7 billion in annual revenue and Georgia’s Fort Gordon is home to the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and U.S. Army Cyber School.
A 2015 analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that more than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, with job postings up 74 percent over the past five years. UNG’s new Center for Cyber Operations Education will provide educational resources, research activities, networking opportunities, and career training for military and civilian careers in cybersecurity, cyber operations and cyber defense.
"UNG will serve as the only university in northeast Georgia dedicated to addressing workforce needs in the area of cyber operations, cyber defense and cybersecurity," said Dr. Bryson Payne, director of the Center for Cyber Operations Education. "Through this interdisciplinary center, increased funding for student internships and scholarships will be possible and both faculty and community members will gain greater access to cybersecurity training opportunities."
The center is responsible for planning, coordinating and supporting cyber education in UNG’s 30-county service region. It will have an advisory board consisting of representatives from various academic and administrative disciplines, as well as cybersecurity industry constituents. The long range goal is to offer undergraduate and graduate-level education, as well as professional certifications through this effort.
Currently, UNG offers one degree concentration and two minors in information assurance and security (IAS) and cybersecurity. Through the Mike Cottrell College of Business, the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems (CSIS) has offered the concentration in information assurance and security as part of the bachelor of science degree in computer science since 2004 and serves as many as 80 students per semester in cybersecurity-related courses.
Beginning in 2013, the Department of CSIS added the IAS minor, and, jointly with the Department of Criminal Justice, the minor in cyber security to add value to any undergraduate major across all disciplines.
"As the US Army continues to grow its Operational Cyber Force, the demand for highly qualified cyber officers and officers with cyber skills will increase. As the commissioning standards remain the same, the accessions process will become more pinpointed and certain aspects of a cadet will be sought-out. Any young cadet or student that can receive the best military education and the best cyber education will most certainly enhance their future opportunities," said UNG alumna Maj. Katherine Grass, deputy chief of the Officer Division in the Cyber Proponent Office at the US Army Cyber School at Fort Gordon.
"The launch of this new center coupled with UNG's historic military education will further place it on the cutting edge for young students, both cadets and civilians," she added.
The center plans to host a two-week residential National Cyber Warrior Academy on the Dahlonega Campus this summer for high school students who are interested in cyber-related education and/or careers.
To date, 35 students have graduated from UNG with all four courses in the IAS concentration, and more than half of all computer science and information systems graduates in the past three years have taken one or more cybersecurity courses. It is expected for enrollment in these areas to increase by more than 30 percent with the creation of the new center.