Grant links Bluegrass CTC to effort to create cybersecurity program

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) received two grants totaling $482,188 during the next two years to develop health care cybersecurity curriculum and a talent, and to increase diversity in cybersecurity programs.

BCTC will receive $308,517 over two years from the National Security Agency (NSA) to work with the University of Louisville, University of Arkansas Little Rock, University of North Florida, the City University of Seattle and Owensboro Community and Technical College to develop curriculum to increase cybersecurity talent specifically focused on health care and research into security biometrics.

The pilot phase of the Healthcare Cybersecurity Workforce Certificate, incorporating Microsoft, IBM and Google technology industry badging, hands-on learning and gamification components, will provide training for 200 first responders and military veterans free of charge.

As a NSA-designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, BCTC contributes interests, experience and skills aligned with health care cybersecurity systems and is committed to  industry and academic institution partnerships.

This curriculum, including artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, internet of things (IoT) and machine learning, will develop a workforce to serve the fast-growing cybersecurity industry.

The online certificate program can be completed in only six months.

Dana Brown, BCTC Computer & Information Technologies (CIT) associate professor, and Melanie Williamson, BCTC academic dean and CIT professor, will provide technical expertise and assist in the development of the certificate program curriculum. Once developed, the curriculum will be available to other institutions free of charge for one year.

The first cohort of 30-40 students is expected to enroll spring 2021. Applicants do not need health care experience or to be enrolled in a degree program at BCTC to complete the certificate. However, the certificate can be applied as credit toward two and four-year degree programs.

In a separate grant from the National Security Agency (NSA), Fordham Center for Cybersecurity was awarded $3M of which BCTC will receive $173,671 over two years as a “subawardee” to build cybersecurity education opportunities for underrepresented populations.

“The NSA and other agencies have realized that there’s a huge shortage in the cybersecurity workforce, so they are trying to encourage more of what we call the ‘soft side of cyber’ and encourage students from other disciplines to come to cyber,” said Dr. Thaier Hayajneh, director of the Fordham Center for Cybersecurity.

“Often when people think of cybersecurity they think it only involves computer science and programming,” Hayaineh said. “One of the ways to address that misconception and attract a more diverse workforce to cybersecurity is to attract students from other disciplines, including business, criminal justice and political science.”

Robert Chirwa, BCTC Computer & Information Technologies professor, will develop innovative solutions to encourage underrepresented student participation in cybersecurity courses, certificate offerings, competitions and transfer to four-year partners offering cybersecurity degrees.

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