Virginia Tech has been awarded approximately $1.5 million to fuel workforce development in cybersecurity and related professional roles as one of six Department of Defense’s (DoD) Senior Military Colleges participating in the U.S. Cyber Command Cyber Leadership Development Program (SMC2I).
Nationally, there is a critical shortage of qualified cyber professionals with approximately 500,000 cyber jobs available and more than 58,000 positions open in the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to Cyber Seek.
“The program provides Virginia Tech the opportunity to leverage our strengths and further expand the depth and breadth of our cybersecurity program to increase the pipeline of future military and civilian cybersecurity experts,” said Laura Freeman, principal investigator and research associate professor of statistics in the College of Science. “The program will engage faculty across four colleges and numerous research centers to tap into a wide range of backgrounds and resources critical to help shape the next generation of cyber leaders.”
Freeman, who is a faculty member with the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) and director of the Intelligent Systems Laboratory at the Hume Center, said that Virginia Tech and the five other senior military colleges — the Citadel, the University of North Georgia, Norwich University, Virginia Military Institute and Texas A&M — will work collaboratively on this national initiative.
The funds for SMC2I will work to identify and develop a diverse population of Virginia Tech students from various academic disciplines into technical experts and leaders in cybersecurity through five primary program elements:
Pipeline Programs – Virginia Tech will support pipeline programs that include mentoring, scholarships, experiential learning, and internships.
Experiential Learning – Virginia Tech will develop unique experiential learning opportunities that frame cybersecurity challenges in real world contexts and target programs that address the critical skill gaps identified by the NSA and DoD.
Curriculum Development – Virginia Tech will support curriculum development by mapping knowledge, skills, and abilities critical to the DoD and civilian cybersecurity workforce by working with relevant department heads to strengthen workforce readiness.
Program Development – Virginia Tech will develop a comprehensive student engagement program accessible to qualified students that will include a seminar series, student competitions, career days, targeted recruiting internship opportunities, summer programs, and cultural and language programs.
Enhancing Cybersecurity Research – Virginia Tech will conduct research in critical skills gaps areas identified by the NSA. Participation in paid experiential learning opportunities and scholarships will be open to students enrolled in a cybersecurity or related discipline who meet the eligibility requirements (U.S. citizen, overall GPA 3.0 or higher). Scholarships will be targeted toward the Corps of Cadets and will encourage participation in a NSA/DoD sponsored (or approved) summer internship program.