HCC launches new cybersecurity center to train vitally needed workers

Jul 7, 2022

A newly opened Security Operations Center at Houston Community College is preparing students for high-skilled jobs in cybersecurity, a field experiencing a critical shortage of workers.

HCC leaders, industry partners and tech education advocates celebrated the grand opening of the center, a simulated training lab, at the HCC West Loop campus on June 24.

Outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment including a miniature water plant and a car-hacking workbench, the center offers a robust training ground for students to learn how to detect and defend against simulated cyberattacks within a controlled environment. Scenarios can be replayed and analyzed afterward.

“Cybersecurity is national security,” said Dr. Madeline Burillo-Hopkins, president of HCC Southwest and vice chancellor of HCC Workforce Instruction. “With the opening of the new center, the college is equipping students with the skills needed not only for their careers but also for making a lasting impact on the nation’s security across industries and organizations.”

Over 500 cybersecurity students are enrolled at HCC including more than 300 pursuing associate degrees and over 200 working toward certificates, said Samir Saber, dean of the HCC Digital Information and Technology Center of Excellence.

“Students who complete an associate degree or certificate in cybersecurity at HCC are landing high-paying jobs right out of the gate such as IT help desk and computer support specialists,” he said. “Others go on to become security analysts, security engineers and cybersecurity architects”

Today, there are over 700,000 cybersecurity job openings in the U.S., and employers are struggling to find qualified workers, Saber noted.

Information security analysts, the largest cybersecurity job pathway, had 180,000 openings from May 2021 through April 2022, with 39,000 unfilled. Employers are also looking for workers with cybersecurity-related skills to fill nearly 535,000 additional openings, according to CyberSeek, a national project of the tech organizations Emsi Burning Glass, CompTIA and National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education.

The project, which provides data on supply and demand in the cybersecurity job market, indicates more than 83,000 cybersecurity job openings in Texas, including some 9,000 in the greater Houston area.

The center is funded through a $650,000 state grant. Experts from the national cybersecurity company Grimm helped install the lab and provided additional training for HCC cybersecurity instructors. “The center will also benefit the community by providing customized training workshops for businesses and organizations,” Saber said.

HCC was designated by the National Security Agency as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense in 2017. The new lab will help solidify the college’s redesignation for another five years, Saber said.

2022 HCC Security Operations Center Ribbon Cutting

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