GO Virginia Region 8 funds cybersecurity workforce development project

cyber securityGO Virginia Region 8 announced that funding for the public private Cyber Security Workforce Development and Jobs Program submitted in round four of project grants to the state GO Virginia Board has been approved.

This $200,000 project will allow Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC) to implement a new cybersecurity workforce development program in the Shenandoah Valley to grow high-wage, high-demand cybersecurity jobs. Through this new self-paced, non-credit training course, the project will produce new industry credentials that are not currently offered in the region.

Full funding for this project will include a mix of GO Virginia funds and matching public/private cash and in-kind investments from the cities of Harrisonburg and Waynesboro, BRCC, and a private cyber security partner in the region, Innovate Tech. InnovateTech will oversee a panel of Managed Security Service Providers who will assist BRCC in developing the Cyber Security program, on-the-job training, monitoring student progress and providing virtual training opportunities to students throughout the program.

InnovateTech will also assist BRCC with student recruitment and student evaluation.

“The Shenandoah Valley has an amazing number of talented, ambitious individuals who would welcome an opportunity to work in a cyber security job located in the region. That is complemented by a very strong network of educational institutions including BRCC,” said Gerard Eldering, President of InnovateTech. “This GO Virginia project will permit us, and other private sector firms, to leverage those assets, bringing desired jobs to the area while addressing the national shortage of cyber security workers”

Marlena Jarboe, BRCC’s Dean of Academic Affairs, said that the funding will allow BRCC to offer classes, on-the-job training, support services, and continued online training post-certification. BRCC hopes to have the program underway by August of this year, with a class of 15-20 students, and an overall goal of creating at least 50 Tier I cybersecurity analyst jobs within two years. The average analyst in this role is currently making an annual salary of $53,641. Furthermore, BRCC’s new program encourages continued education and advancement in the industry because students will be given access to online training even after they are certified.

BRCC President Dr. John Downey believes this program will also produce analysts that many businesses in the area need now: “I think almost every business now has to be aware of and address cybersecurity in some way,” said Downey. “I think what this will mean for the region is a greater number of trained, skilled technicians that can help local companies be prepared with cybersecurity. That’s the big win for the region.”

The Cities of Harrisonburg and Waynesboro are excited to see businesses in their communities benefit from the training producing workers with this advanced skill set. “We’re very excited for Harrisonburg to support a cybersecurity training program at Blue Ridge Community College. Harrisonburg has been targeting information technology and information security for well over five years now and recognizes that we need a talent pipeline in place to fill jobs when they become available,” said Brian Shull, Harrisonburg’s Economic Development Director. “This training program will certainly help provide that talent pipeline. If the program produces at least 50 technicians earning at the average salary for the field, Harrisonburg will have received a very strong return on our investment,” Shull concluded.

Carrie Chenery, executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, which helps staff the GO Virginia Region 8 board, said that the GO Virginia program is designed to encourage regional economic development collaboration and diversification. “Having this program focused on building a steady pipeline of workers trained with an in-demand skill set in cyber security in our region allows us to support more diversified industry sectors going forward, including but not limited to cyber security companies,” Chenery explained.

The Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity (GO Virginia) is a voluntary, business-led, bipartisan initiative that was formed to foster private-sector growth and diversification across nine economic development regions in the Commonwealth of Virginia. State financial incentives designated for regional projects that encourage collaboration between private sector companies, workforce, education, and government are administered by the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Board.

GO Virginia Region 8 covers a large area from Winchester to Lexington and includes ten counties and six cities in the Shenandoah Valley, with a combined population of 525,000. The 28-member council that oversees the GO Virginia program is made up of representatives from small and large business, higher and K-12 education, elected officials, and economic and workforce development organizations.

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