Penn College duo addresses cybersecurity skills shortage

Published 02.26.2019

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A Pennsylvania College of Technology faculty duo detailed at a recent major cybersecurity conference their pioneering efforts to address the critical shortage of professionals in the field.

Jacob R. Miller and Sandra Gorka, associate professors of computer science, presented “Kinder Garten Security: Teaching the Pre-college Crowd” at ShmooCon 2019 in Washington, D.C.

The annual East Coast hacker convention is devoted to technology impacting information security and discussions regarding the field. The conference is offered by The Shmoo Group, comprised of worldwide security professionals who donate their time and expertise for information security research and development.

Thanks to strong attendance by students, faculty, staff and alumni, Pennsylvania College of Technology was well-represented at a recent major cybersecurity conference: ShmooCon 2019 in Washington, D.C. In front of 300 attendees, Miller and Gorka described an estimated cybersecurity job shortage of 2.9 million worldwide and 498,000 in the United States, and how the program they developed through a National Science Foundation grant introduces such careers to high school students.

The duo – with the assistance of Alicia McNett, instructor of computer information technology – developed a college credit introductory information assurance and cybersecurity course offered to local high school juniors and seniors.

Throughout their presentation, Miller and Gorka outlined course content, as well as ideas for hands-on activities to reinforce key topics. They are actively sharing their resources with the hope that other institutions will duplicate their efforts.

“Jake and Sandra have spearheaded a tremendous commitment to offer some realistic remedies for the skills shortage facing the cybersecurity community,” said Bradley M. Webb, assistant dean of industrial, computing and engineering technologies, who has coordinated the grant initiative with high schools. “Their discussion sparked a lot of interest at the conference, and we are hopeful the program can serve as a model throughout the country.”

During the 2017-18 academic year, 17 high students took the course at Penn College, and at least five of those students decided to pursue security careers. Currently, 23 students are participating, and approximately half have indicated an interest in pursuing an information technology career.

The course meets once a week throughout the school year and is taught by college faculty. Penn College information technology students serve as mentors for the high school participants.

“We are grateful that the success of the program could be shared with the active ShmooCon community,” Webb said. “It was also rewarding to see about 40 current Penn College students and alumni in attendance at the conference.”

The college offers baccalaureate degrees in information assurance and cyber security, game and simulation programming, information technology: network specialist concentration, and software development and information management, and an associate degree in information technology: technical support technology emphasis.

Information about those majors and other programs offered by the college’s School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies is available by calling 570-327-4520.

For more on Penn College, a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.