Information Communication Technologies & Digital Media Sector Team

As the number of cybersecurity job openings grows, community colleges know they have a role to play in addressing the workforce problem but have different approaches for how to do so. A new project in the Inland Empire/Desert Region aims to bring colleges together to share best practices and receive central funding to support building a cybersecurity pathway.

Susanne Mata, the region’s ICT-DM Deputy Sector Navigator, received Strong Workforce funding to support projects at individual colleges, as well as coordination among colleges and centralized planning and oversight.

“Cybersecurity is a hot topic right now, and I wondered if we could do a project to help the colleges establish cybersecurity pathways,” she said. “I proposed the idea and we had focus group sessions with key stakeholders. Each college receives an allocation, plus there are central funds.”

Mata holds regular meetings with a project team that includes a member from each participating college. Some already have cybersecurity programs, while others are just getting started. Since the grant cycle began last year, colleges have begun writing curricula, hiring faculty, and allocating space for cybersecurity labs and centers.

Among those efforts include articulation agreements at Riverside City College and San Bernardino Valley College, a new cybersecurity center at Moreno Valley College, and a cyber lab at College of the Desert.

Mata also encourages colleges to partner with existing cybersecurity education initiatives like the California Cyberhub, an online organization that organizes cybersecurity competitions and promotes best practices across the state.

A new funding cycle will run from July 1 of this year through the end of 2021. Mata expects to add two colleges to this round, bringing the total number of participants to 8 of the 12 colleges in her region.

“The goal is to establish a multi-college regional cybersecurity network where everyone is doing different activities to meet labor market need,” Mata said. “We are trying to meet the colleges where they are and make sure they know about the resources that are available to them.”