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Cybersecurity Equals Job Security

HGTC Cybersecurity Program Equals Job Security for Graduates

(Conway, SC) 10/15/2019

Cybersecurity TeamIt’s not classified information that cyber threats and attacks are climbing daily and that security risks of networks, systems, and infrastructure are on the rise. To address the crisis, cybersecurity job postings have increased significantly with the hopes of making a real impact in protecting individual, corporate, and national security. Unfortunately, demand still continues to outweigh the supply of qualified cybersecurity talent especially in South Carolina where the cybersecurity sector has grown* 134% in the last five years, well above the national growth rate of 91%. That’s why Horry-Georgetown Technical College (HGTC) has been on alert with a heightened sensitivity to the needs of its community and an expanded awareness of what the computing industry needs especially in the field of cybersecurity and computer forensics.

As the fourth largest and fastest growing technical college in the state of South Carolina, the College is currently exceeding expectations on its campus and beyond via training programs that are unique to South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. Information Technology, Digital Arts, and Administrative Office Technology departments offer outstanding programs designed to equip graduates for exciting careers. State-of-the-art hardware and software provide a real-world environment that allows students to acquire the skills they need for these careers of the future.

Programs Offered at HGTC include:

As the only public, technical college serving the residents of northern coastal South Carolina, HGTC is strategically positioned to partner with the Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic to grow the cybersecurity workforce pipeline.

Dr. Marilyn M. Fore, HGTC President, and a team of information technology professors recently traveled to Charleston to visit NIWC Atlantic as part of the Educational Partnership Agreement HGTC has with the governmental agency.

Cybersecurity Trophies

Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition Cups:
1st Place Challenge Cup among two-year colleges (left)
2nd Place overall compared to all two-year and four-year colleges (right)

The highlight of the trip was the opportunity to visit two HGTC graduates who are currently employed within the cybersecurity department. Stan Greenawalt, HGTC Cybersecurity Professor, has made it his mission to see the cybersecurity program develop in a way that equips HGTC students with the essential knowledge of cybersecurity and computer forensics to ultimately guarantee success for graduates in any network environment.

“This was Dr. Fore’s first opportunity to meet the graduates that are now employed in their specialized field of study,” said Greenawalt. “Our visit was a full circle moment as a college and very beneficial for us to receive feedback directly from the students and the employer. We all could see how the program is working and ultimately changing lives.”

One of the HGTC graduates visited on-site at NIWC Atlantic was Mr. James “Bo” Soles who is currently working on the Cybersecurity Incident Response team. He completed the HGTC Networking program in 2005 and Cybersecurity certificate program in the spring of 2018.

When Mr. Soles was asked if HGTC could have done anything more to prepare him for the experience he replied, “No, HGTC did everything absolutely possible to prepare and equip me for my career. After working on the IT side for 20 plus years, I knew I needed to complete the cybersecurity certificate program and obtain the foundational knowledge so that I could successfully secure an advanced position in the field. The cybersecurity component gave me the opportunity to grow and build upon my skills as a systems administrator to target the attacks of the future.”

Mr. Christian Jacobs completed the programming degree program in the spring of 2018 and is fully integrated as a member of the application development team at NIWC. Both HGTC graduates, Soles and Jacobs, have been working in their selected areas of expertise for over a year now and find their jobs professionally demanding and rewarding.

To Lou Ann Timmons, HGTC Academic Chair for Information Technology, Digital Arts, and Administrative Office Technology, this is what makes their experience as professors even better.

“What makes this experience even better for us as professors is the fact that all three of our programs have come together and intermingled with each other,” said Timmons. “Our students are not only completing their networking and programming degrees of emphasis but after graduation, they are also planning to come back and complete the cybersecurity program. Knowing that all three programs are filtering into each other is one of the most exciting parts for us. What our students are learning in networking and programming is making them hungry for even more. They want to earn the cybersecurity degree because they have a vision of where it could possibly lead.”

According to President Fore, HGTC’s cybersecurity program is preparing students for employment in one of the nation’s fastest growing careers.

“This is a growing field with more jobs than qualified workers. Visiting the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic was an inspirational experience and significant milestone for us to actually gather firsthand feedback on how HGTC graduates of the cybersecurity and networking programs are performing in such an important arena of cybersecurity,” she said. “HGTC is looking forward to having more members potentially join the team as the next classes complete the cybersecurity and computer forensics certificate.”

To equip the college with the state-of-the-art training technology and resources to meet Cybersecurity training needs throughout South Carolina, HGTC received a $750,000 Cybersecurity Grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and educational partnership with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic (SPAWARSYSCEN) in January 2019.

It is through this grant that the development for a new Security Operations Center (SOC) Cyber Range and Forensics Lab at HGTC will be fully operational as HGTC’s new associate degree in cybersecurity launches next fall in 2020.

“HGTC plays an integral role in education and workforce development as it strengthens the link between industry and higher education training,” continued President Fore. “The new Security Operations Center (SOC) at HGTC, coupled with expanded certificate and degree programs in cybersecurity and computer forensics, will target urgent workforce needs. We are not only significantly improving the quality of life for our community but also securing the safety of our fellow citizens across the country.”

Join HGTC in celebrating National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a collaborative effort between government and industry, to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity and the resources available for Americans to be safer and secure online. Those interested in a career in cybersecurity are encouraged to apply in advance because the program is currently overcapacity.