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CNCC to begin offering Cybersecurity program this fall

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Colorado Northwestern Community College.

A little over a year after receiving a $500,000 grant from the Colorado Attorney General’s office for the creation of a cybersecurity program at Colorado Northwestern Community College, the local community college will officially begin offering the ever-growing program to students in the fall.

CNCC made it official May 12 after passing two major milestones — hiring a program director and receiving program approval by the Higher Learning Commission.

“Our newest program in cybersecurity will offer students the opportunity to receive one or more college certificates; their Associated of Applied Science and several industry recognized credentials for career or further study in one of the most in-demand and highest paying tech sector professions in the nation,” CNCC President Ron Granger said in a press release announcing the program.

For students wishing to learn or brush-up on skills in computer networking technology, the program will begin with networking fundamentals, principles of information assurance, network security fundamentals and firewalls/network security.

New instructor Dr. Rodney Alexander will teach the four classes mornings and nights this fall.

“We welcome Dr. Rodney Alexander to Craig and the college. He joins us from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas where he was teaching networking and cybersecurity after a long career with the Department of Defense that began when he enlisted and served our country in the military,” Granger said.

Alexander, who started in November 2020, quickly established the college as a CISCO Networking Academy, began setting-up dedicated computer labs, and settling into life in Craig.

“I was surprised to see deer walking the streets in town. Everyone has been very friendly,” Alexander said. “We have a lot of work to do to prepare for our first cybersecurity students.”

Development of the cybersecurity program is supported by a $500,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Law under the direction of Attorney General Phil Weiser awarded in January 2020.

A Business Industry Leadership Team composed of people involved in cybersecurity at local, regional and state levels are advising the college on the skills, knowledge and abilities most desired in the profession, CNCC said.

Additionally, the board helped to determine the equipment and software needed for learning labs.

“The need for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow, offering opportunities to work locally and also remotely. It’s our role to advise the college so that the program aligns with industry to ensure students that graduate from the program are ready to enter the workforce,” said Tim Osborn, chair of the cybersecurity BILT Advisory Board and Operations Manager for the Craig Station.

Cybersecurity is the practice of defending computers, servers, mobile devices, electronic systems, networks, and data from malicious attacks, according to the cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency. Cybercrimes such as identity theft, phishing, and ransomware attacks are on the rise and so is the need for people to help prevent them.

Northwest Colorado won’t be the first region to turn to the high tech sector in a transition from coal, as the Appalachian region saw a similar transition about a decade ago with the growth of companies like Bitsource in Pikeville, Kentucky.

“We’re a region filled with practical inventors, accidental entrepreneurs, makers and doers that use their skills to get their work done. When we reimagine that work in another context, it’s not so hard to believe that some coal miner will have what it takes to be the coders and cybersecurity professionals of the future,” said Kathy Powell-Case, Dean of Career Technical Education for the Craig campus.

The next step is qualifying the program for federal financial aid eligibility. Program development is on-time and on-budget with enrollment for fall classes open now.

For more information and to register for classes visit: http://www.cncc.edu/cyber.

Managing Editor Joshua Carney can be reached at 970-875-1790 or jcarney@craigdailypress.com.

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