New grant to help 1,600 people earn credentials in cybersecurity

Myles Luckett, Journalist

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is one of the beneficiaries of a $100 million grant from the U.S Department of Labor through the apprenticeship program “Closing the Skills Gap.”      

Whitewater is one of 28 schools who received the grant to fund major apprenticeship expansions in industries that include extensive manufacturing, healthcare and information technology. More specifically, the grant will focus on supporting apprenticeships in cybersecurity and similar areas.

“The goal of our center is to be a conduit of education and workforce development. There are nearly 5,000 open jobs in cybersecurity in Wisconsin alone. Anyone who is in business in Wisconsin needs to start paying attention to their cyber behavior. We need to retrain and educate everyone who uses a computer to the new threats that exist. We don’t expect every person to become a cybersecurity expert, but we do believe that with a small amount of training we can help our businesses remain secure,” said Brian Dennis, the director of the Cyber Security Center for Small Business.

Questions of why we need to invest time and money into the program have come about. The simple fact of the matter is that the program provides more job opportunities for the residents of Wisconsin who have a hard time finding work, as well as adding security to the fast growing cyber world. The grant focuses on helping unemployed and even underemployed Wisconsin residents, and in more specific cases, veterans and Native Americans. The expectation is that 1,600 people will be credentialed and properly trained in cybersecurity.

“Approximately 4,900 open jobs are unfilled in the state right now, and we hope that with this program we can provide residents with the critical training and skills they need to fill a good portion of them. We are excited to provide training in the growing cybersecurity field for the people of Wisconsin,” said Kevin Kaufman, director of the Small Business Development Center.

Not only are the developers and minds behind the program excited for what the cybersecurity grant will provide, but those who will benefit from the training share the same level of excitement as more job opportunities come this way.

“As a resident of the Whitewater community, the jobs and opportunities are scarce and there are a lot of the same types of jobs out here which do not allow growth as far as a career goes. So when I learned that there will be a new job out here that also gives training, it felt like God answered my prayers. I am very excited to learn what cybersecurity is all about and hopefully it is something I can do for a long time,” said Isiah Hawkins, Whitewater resident and cybersecurity hopeful.

As for starters, the program will get with about 700 private companies and public sectors to see what skill gaps there are. Each of the 1,600 participants will be enrolled in education and training programs to get them ready for starting level positions in the cybersecurity career field.

Also, the program will provide an online educational training course that will last eight weeks. This includes weekend computer classroom experiential learning lab exercises to help develop skill sets.   

After the training, the participants should have the basic knowledge to study for the “CompTIA Security+ Certification,” which is an important industry credential.

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