WASHINGTON – Devin Corbett is preparing to graduate, again. After receiving a culinary arts degree and working in the restaurant industry for 12 years, Corbett is completing a cybersecurity degree at Montgomery College.
Corbett, 34, moved to Gaithersburg from Texas in 2012 when his wife received a job offer. He said technology is his second love after food, and he hopes that his new degree will help him break into Maryland’s growing cybersecurity industry.
“It’s not as easy as you’d think to get a job once you graduate,” Corbett said.
A grant from the U.S. Department of Labor aims to solve this issue by giving a group of community colleges in Maryland nearly $15 million to strengthen job training programs for students pursuing information technology.
The Cyber Technology Pathways Across Maryland consortium consists of 14 community colleges — including Montgomery College, Howard Community College, Anne Arundel Community College and Baltimore City Community College — that plan to revamp their programs by partnering with regional employers.
Many of these employers work in cybersecurity, protecting computers and networks from unauthorized access.
The four-year grant, announced last month, comes from the latest round of the U.S. Department of Labor’s funding aimed at helping community colleges train people for jobs in growing industries.
There are more than 130,000 information technology jobs in Maryland, according to the White House, nearly 50 percent more than the national average.
A major goal of the grant is to ensure that each community college in the consortium offers a degree that prepares students for jobs in the cybersecurity industry.
The curriculum is still being developed. Courses will cover topics ranging from information security to computer forensics, the process used to gather evidence from a computer for use in court.
Students will begin taking these revamped courses next fall. In the next three years, nearly 2,000 students around Maryland are expected to graduate from the programs.
Steve Greenfield, of Montgomery College’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education department, led the grant application effort. He emphasized the importance of job training to the new partnership.
“This project is not just about education, but opportunities for internships and jobs,” Greenfield said.
Montgomery College will lead the consortium, and will receive $5.37 million from the grant. Greenfield said the college will focus on connecting residents around Maryland with the initiative.
“Our role will be to make sure this project happens on a statewide basis,” Greenfield said.
Community colleges plan on partnering with more than 40 employers in the region, including IBM, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, with the goal of keeping curricula up to date with the evolving information technology industry.
“Technology and cybersecurity are very dynamic sectors,” Greenfield said. “The things we’re teaching today might not be applicable tomorrow.”
Philip Schiff is the CEO of the Tech Council of Maryland, a trade association made up of businesses in the technology field. He hopes the consortium can counteract what he sees as a workforce shortage in the state’s technology industry.
“Our members are telling us they can’t find the people they need,” Schiff said.
The federal grant requires that community colleges in the consortium target veterans and the unemployed. Greenfield said that institutions plan on reaching out to this population by working with local employment centers, and offering courses at a reduced cost.
The consortium also plans to provide students with career planning advice and support during their job search.
Silvia Vargas, who teaches cybersecurity at Montgomery College, wants to make sure that funding will also be used to improve existing cybersecurity programs.
“At least one of the things I would like to see is program enhancement,” Vargas said. “It can mean anything from hiring new faculty to buying equipment.”