Lt. Gov. Cooney touts Great Falls College’s cybersecurity program as more critical than ever
Great Falls College is just one of two schools in Montana to be designated a Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and Homeland Security.
GREAT FALLS, Mont. – Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney recently read a report showing the growing divide between the number of graduates with degrees in cybersecurity and the number of openings in the field.
It alarmed him, he said Tuesday while visiting with Great Falls College MSU's computer technology programs, including cybersecurity.
"And now with COVID-19 and so much of the workforce at home, there is even greater need," Cooney said.
Steve Robinett, Great Falls College computer technology director, nodded his head.
Robinett said he also was recently looking at the number of openings in the field, and he ticked off numerous openings just in the Great Falls area while visiting with Cooney.
Great Falls College is poised to have its first cybersecurity graduating class at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
"There will be jobs waiting for them," Robinett said.
Great Falls College is just one of two schools in Montana – along with Missoula College – to be designated a Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and Homeland Security.
"What that means is that (NSA and Homeland Security) have looked at what we're teaching and said we're teaching the things we need to be teaching," Robinett said. "If there is anybody in the world who understands what is needed, it's them."
Dr. Leanne Frost, executive director of instruction and general studies division director, said another strong aspect of Great Falls College's computer programs is the adjunct faculty members who are working in the industry.
"It keeps us current having people working in the industry," she said.
Cooney said in talking with the state's cybersecurity leaders, they identified the need for more trained experts in the cybersecurity field.
He said he was appreciative of the efforts of Great Falls College to fill the vital workforce need.
"That's what two-year colleges do," said Dr. Susan J. Wolff, CEO/dean of Great Falls College. "We are very flexible and nimble, so when we see an industry need, we react."
The lieutenant governor agreed.
"Two-year colleges are a real treasure," Cooney said. "Keep meeting the needs of our communities. These are high-paying jobs."
He then asked Robinett what the state could do for the cybersecurity program at Great Falls College.
"Get the word out," Robinett answered before stressing the need for better access to broadband internet in the state's rural areas.
Cooney agreed and said much work has been done to get better access in rural Montana.
"I'm not going to solve that tomorrow, but we're working on it," he said.
In addition to offering associate of applied science degrees in cybersecurity, network support and computer programming, Great Falls College also offers a certificate in cybersecurity for working professionals who already may be working in the industry but are looking to upskill.
"It gives them a job ladder," Cooney said.
"Yes, someone who may be working at an entry level job could upskill," Robinett said.
Frost emphasized that courses in the certificate program are offered online, "so anyone in the state can take them."
All paperwork to register for classes at Great Falls College needs to be turned in by Aug. 12. Classes start Aug. 17.
Reach out to admissions with any questions at 406-268-3700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Thompson, Great Falls College marketing and communications director, 406-771-4314, email@example.com
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