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IN THE NEWS: IT and Cybersecurity Program Growing With Help From New Grant

The following article appeared in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald on August 2, 2022. For more information about the Information Technology program contact Carrie Butler at cjbutler@hawaii.edu

Seeing demand, HCC works to expand cybersecurity program

By GRANT PHILLIPS Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Tuesday, August 2, 2022, 12:05 a.m.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a transition toward remote work, and internet hackers took advantage of new online vulnerabilities.

In 2019, a survey from security.org consisting of FBI cyberattack data listed Hawaii as the No. 1 state at risk for cyberattacks, reporting a 136.4% increase of attack incidents for the state between 2016 and 2017.

To combat the problem, Hawaii Community College is creating new courses, recruiting students and implementing a cybersecurity certificate program to spread awareness and provide information technology jobs throughout the state.

The goals will be supported by a $20,000 grant awarded to HCC this year to help improve and expand its cybersecurity program.

HCC is one of just 14 schools across the nation to win the Cyber-Skills for All grants, made possible through a partnership between Microsoft and the American Association of Community Colleges.

“Nationwide, there’s a shortage of cybersecurity professionals,” said Information Technology Studies instructor Carrie Butler, who heads the program at HCC. “But with the increase in remote jobs, I think there’s going to be a strong need for our island and nationwide. There’s not enough people going into IT and cybersecurity.”

The grant is expected to help assist with training additional faculty members, covering costs of certification exams and textbooks, recruiting students and redeveloping the current cybersecurity courses.

“I have monthly meetings with the people on the grant that are giving me good feedback for the courses,” said Butler. “The students will be able to take the Security+ certification at the end of their degree as part of the grant.”

The Security+ certification test costs roughly $381 and helps resumes stand out by verifying basic security practices and functions set by the Computing Technology Industry Association.

The current IT program at HCC offers a mix of both in-person and online classes in general cybersecurity, digital forensics and ethical hacking.

“We’ve had Information Assurance, that is our cybersecurity certificate, and we’ve just changed it to embed it into our associate’s degree starting this fall,” said Butler. “There’s three specific cybersecurity courses, and then the overall certificate program that also has courses like networking and things like that that go along with cybersecurity.”

In addition to access to a computer lab and one-on-one office hours, the program offers internship opportunities for students to gain professional experience locally.

“Students do 100 internship hours, mostly with local companies,” Butler said. “We have an internship program where students go out into the community and work. We always want to strengthen those opportunities and job placement.”

HCC’s IT program will continue during spring semester with class sizes between 20 and 25 students.

Butler also reported a recent increase of interest in the program.

“Our beginning semester course is full, and we’re looking into opening another one,” she said.

Because of the need for cybersecurity professionals nationwide, the courses can lead to lucrative careers.

“The median salaries for most IT jobs are over $100,000,” she said. “IT is a great area to be in. There’s a shortage of workers for cybersecurity and IT jobs in general.”

The cybersecurity program also launched a collaboration last year with Western Governors University, which allows students to take part in an online four-year bachelor’s program which provides additional prep and opportunities to earn the A+, Network + and Security+ certificates.

“Traditionally, a lot of jobs have required a bachelor’s degree, but that is changing with micro-credentialing and with things like IT certifications that can put your resume up higher on the list,” Butler said. “We just got our articulation agreement with Western Governors University this last year to go for an online bachelor’s degree. We also have one with Maui College, and we’d like to strengthen those opportunities.”

The program at HCC costs the standard tuition, estimated at $3,204 per year.