UNCW and CFCC Receive $196,782 Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program Grant

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

UNCW and Cape Fear Community College have been awarded a $196,782 grant from the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program to develop the UNCW–CFCC Collaborative Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program.

The program will provide a work-based learning experience for UNCW cybersecurity students and an incentive for CFCC Cyber Crime Technologies graduates to continue their studies at UNCW, said Ulku Clark, information systems professor in the Congdon School of Supply Chain, Business Analytics and Information Systems within the Cameron School of Business.

The program will launch with pilot students in February 2021. Student apprentices will be selected from among CFCC students currently participating in the CFCC cyber-crime technology program. They will be evaluated by a committee of UNCW faculty, staff and CFCC faculty for interest, ability and perceived potential for operating effectively as a member of a cybersecurity team.

Faculty and staff involved in the program are Clark and Geoff Stoker, Congdon School faculty; Ron Vetter and Laurie Patterson, UNCW Department of Computer Science faculty; William Wetherill, director of UNCW Information Technology Security, and Greg Vandergriff, program director for CFCC Cyber Crime Technology.

“We have a wonderful, motivated team of UNCW faculty from the computer science department and the Congdon School, ITS staff, and CFCC faculty that are very interested in student success. This grant will be a great boost to our ability to support them,” said Vetter.

In September 2018, UNCW was designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. With the designation comes additional opportunities to engage support, such as the Department of Defense Cyber Scholarship Program. The grant solicits capacity-building ideas to enhance the nation’s pipeline for developing the cybersecurity workforce, said Clark. Outreach to community college was one of the focus areas for this particular grant cycle.

“The apprenticeship program is part of the response to the large cybersecurity talent gap that currently exists in the United States and throughout the rest of the developed world,” said CFCC’s Vandergriff.

A global cybersecurity workforce gap of more than 4 million currently exists, while a gap of 561,000 skilled cybersecurity workers exists in North America (up from 498,000 the year before), according to the 2019 Cybersecurity Workforce Study by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium.

“Although there has been an increase in the number of academic programs offering cybersecurity education, most recruiters are hesitant to hire without any experience or on-the-job training. This apprenticeship program will give work-based learning experience to students and produce work-force ready graduates,” said Wetherill.

The grant will allow for the hiring of two additional UNCW student workers who assist in the day-to-day operations of the ITS security operations center. A new security operations center workspace will accommodate apprentice cohorts. The UNCW security operation center monitors over 300 million network events per day.

-- Venita Jenkins