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PPCC to launch new two-year cybersecurity degree, open third lab

December 21, 2017 Updated: December 21, 2017 at 10:45 pm
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Pikes Peak Community College "PPCC". Photo by Jeff Kearney.

A new associate of applied science degree in cybersecurity will be available at Pikes Peak Community College beginning with the semester starting Jan. 15.

The school also has a lease agreement pending with the Catalyst Campus for Technology & Innovation at 555 E. Pikes Peak Ave. to build a third cybersecurity lab, said Karen Kovaly, PPCC spokeswoman.

"It's as good as done, but it probably won't happen until the start of the New Year, when they make it official," she said.

The new two-year degree program will join other offerings that include noncredit cybersecurity test-prep courses PPCC has had since mid-2016.

The addition comes at a crucial time, Kovaly said.

There are more than 1,400 job openings in the area for people with a Security+ certification, she said. Statewide, there are nearly 10,000, according to Cyber Seek, a website about the job market.

"Businesses around the globe have realized the vital importance of securing their networks, so meeting the demand for qualified workers in this field has become urgent," Kovaly said.

Instruction will be a combination of online and classroom teaching. In the lab, students work through realistic scenarios using up-to-date technology.

The new degree prepares students for two industry certification tests: the Cisco Certified Network Associate Security, or CCNA Security, or the Computing Technology Industry Association Security+, or CompTIA Security+.

After passing exams, students can pursue careers as cybersecurity analysts, information systems security engineers and systems design engineers. Salaries start around $60,000 a year, Kovaly said.

"The need is now," she said, adding that PPCC has been able to immediately respond to needs voiced by such local companies as Boecore aerospace and engineering design firm and root9B, an information security company.

The reponsiveness caught the attention of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

When the governor came to Colorado Springs in November to address the National Cyber Symposium, Kovaly said he made a point of stopping by PPCC's main campus to meet with President Lance Bolton.

"They talked about cybersecurity and other ways we're feeding the workforce," Kovaly said. "He called us out as the perfect source for filling the needs of this fast-paced workforce. We're nimble at getting the workforce trained quickly."

PPCC has two cybersecurity labs, at its Rampart Range and Centennial campuses.

After renovations, the new lab at the Catalyst Campus, a collaborative grouping of aerospace, defense and homeland security, advanced manufacturing, electronics, cybersecurity and information technology industries, will be used for a noncredit cybersecurity test-prep course and corporate training for local employers. The first session, Certified Ethical Hacker, starts in February.

The noncredit courses teach experienced hobbyists and IT professionals what they need to know to pass industry-standards exams, including Network+, Security+ and Certified Ethical Hacker.

Kovaly said the new space also will enable PPCC to expand its Career Boost program for adults with low math and reading scores who want to train for such careers as Information Technology, with courses taught at Catalyst on evenings and weekends.

As part of its goal to become an NSA-certified Center of Academic Excellence for a two-year school, PPCC is involved with a group of higher education institutions, businesses and government agencies working together to advance education and research to strengthen the national cybersecurity workforce.

"We're really modeling the importance of cybersecurity not just by developing our academic programs but also by our efforts to become certified by the NSA - which means educating our workforce about safety and us becoming a secure site," Kovaly said.

For more information on PPCC's degree programs, go to ppcc.edu/cybersecurity.

For more information on the non-credit certification classes, go to ppcc.edu/workforce-development.

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