Industry

IBM expands HBCU cybersecurity center program to 20 schools

IBM announced this week that it will be expanding its collaboration with Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs), bringing its Cybersecurity Leadership Centers to 14 new schools across a total of 11 states. 

Earlier this year, the tech giant announced a partnership with six HBCUs who would be provided with free access to coursework, lectures, immersive training experiences, certifications, IBM Cloud-hosted software and professional development resources.

IBM develops a customized cybersecurity curriculum for each school, and offers students as well as professors access to simulated cyberattacks through IBM Security’s Command Center.  

Programs at North Carolina A&T State University, Southern University System, Clark Atlanta University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Morgan State University, South Carolina State University began in May.

An IBM spokesperson said students and professors from the first six schools have already participated in cyberattack simulation training exercises, security expert lectures and workshops.

The new slate of schools — which include Alabama A&M University, Tuskegee University, Vorhees University, and others — will have immediate access to the coursework, training curriculum and certifications.

“These are universities IBM has long worked with and we have confidence in the school’s commitment and execution on this multi-year collaboration. HBCUs make excellent collaborators for preparing students for tech-related careers,” the spokesperson said, tying the program to a larger effort to train more than 150,000 people in cybersecurity over the next three years. In all, there are more than 100 HBCUs nationwide.

Alcorn State University president Dr. Felecia Nave said the initiative was an important step as Mississippi seeks to fill a cybersecurity expertise gap that is leaving businesses in the state at risk. 

CyberSeek — a project supported by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), a program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce — estimated last November that the U.S. cybersecurity workforce has more than 950,000 positions with nearly half of them unfilled.

According to CyberSeek, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects “information security analyst” to be the 10th fastest growing occupation over the next decade.

“The need for highly trained workers in the cybersecurity field has never been more clear, and this partnership with IBM will help ensure that West Virginia State University will be at the forefront of addressing this critical need both in West Virginia and throughout the nation,” said Ericke Cage, president of West Virginia State University. 

The programs may also help the schools themselves, as HBCU’s have been targeted in recent months by ransomware groups and other cybercriminals. Howard University canceled classes last September after announcing a ransomware attack and North Carolina A&T University was attacked in April

IBM staff visited the campus of South Carolina State University in July for a series of workshops to help students and professors with the company’s security software. In addition to being the only public HBCU to offer a standalone degree in cybersecurity, the university is the only such school to be an NSA-designated National Center of Academic Excellence.

Jordan Brown, age 22, is one of the beneficiaries of IBM’s program. He graduated from SC State in May with a degree in computer science, but he stayed on this fall to be one of the first students to complete a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity at the school.

“The software and courses that IBM have brought to SC State has helped both my academic and professional career tremendously,” Brown said. “IBM offers modules that break down subjects that are usually too hard to understand studying independently into interactive projects and real-world situations that relate the information to what we may experience after college.”

Two weeks ago, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced a partnership with the nonprofit National Cybersecurity Alliance to create a new cybersecurity program at the HBCUs Prairie View A&M, Southern University, St. Philip’s College and Texas Southern University.

Dell Technologies, Proofpoint, Quanta Services and Trellix also signed on to the HBCU Career Program.  

Jonathan Greig

Jonathan has worked across the globe as a journalist since 2014. Before moving back to New York City, he worked for news outlets in South Africa, Jordan and Cambodia. He previously covered cybersecurity at ZDNet and TechRepublic.

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