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Dawning of a new workforce

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Photo courtesy of CIC.

CIC’s education investment pays off

The Cyber Innovation Center is finally seeing years of investment in educating the future tech workforce come good.

The recent announcement that Computer Sciences Corporation would locate a new 116,000 sq. ft. facility with 800 employees in the CIC’s Cyber Research Park illustrated the success of the CIC’s education mission.

“One of the things that lured CSC here was our level of talent and ability to create talent to meet their needs. Any employer looking to relocate is concerned with the availability of skilled talents and that is a strength here,” said Bossier Parish Community College Chancellor Dr. Jim Henderson

The CIC began developing educational programs with the goal of organically growing a workforce to support a cyber technology industry.

“Everything we’ve done is to achieve the goal of growing own cyber workforce,” said Cazes. “Our job is to educate our students. If we don’t have jobs waiting on them, then shame on us.”

A multifaceted effort was undertaken to work with university and college partners to address the formal academic pathway, as well as developing curriculum at the K-12 level.

Among other entities, the university pathway was embraced by Louisiana Tech and Bossier Parish Community College. BPCC created a cyber technology degree in 2008 and Louisiana Tech has built their cyber engineering degree program.

“We are a national center of academic excellence designated by the Department of Homeland Security, we’re one of only 13 colleges in the nation,” said Henderson. “We saw a defense related need with our proximity to Barksdale Air Force Base and the Air Force’s role in cyber security, and with our presence in the Cyber Research Park we want to grow a STEM workforce because future of this area’s economy sits on building this new industry.”

In middle and high schools, CIC has developed NICERC (National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center) to engage students in new way, one that includes physics, advanced math, engineering and science, and cyber literacy.

“The thought process is these classes are being taught every day, so let’s provide teachers with the resources to reach those students in an entirely new way,” said Cazes.

He said Bossier schools have been a valuable, supportive test site.

“If we come up with an idea they’re giving us an environment to help mold it and that’s huge. It’s progressive and allows us to advance our program and give their students a new opportunity,” said Cazes.

The CIC is also rolling out Cyber Discovery nationally through the Department of Homeland Security. They also support other nationally recognized programs by sponsoring schools teams to compete in the Shell EcoMarathon and the Science Olympiad as well as being a regional host site for the Mini-urban Challenge.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. If they’re a cyber patriot program, we will support it,” Cazes noted.

He said the effort to create this extensive, thorough educational program is made easier by having good partners and staff.

“We’re blessed to have really good partners. They’re outside the box thinkers and we have the ‘What do we have to get it done?’ attitude,” said Cazes.

“To do what we’re trying to do is a constant grind. As we’re getting outside our own community, there’s a lot of dynamics and cultures we have to account for and right now we’re looking for like minded people who want to change how they engage their students.”

With CSC locating in the National Cyber Research Park, Cazes is “unbelievably positive” and feels the effort has been worth it.

“I feel fulfilled with the types of things we’re doing in classrooms. With CSC choosing Bossier, it’s bringing it full circle. We have a major employer locating here for these students to move to after completing their education and it’s closing the circle.”

Henderson said BPCC’s goal is to stay on the cutting edge when it comes to certifications and meeting the needs of employers.

“The beauty of STEM fields is that it’s not static, it’s constantly changing and we’re blessed to have leadership and faculty that are reinventing themselves in the latest research out there to make sure our educational product is ahead of the curve.”

However, Cazes noted this is not a stopping point, only the tip of the iceberg.

“I’m really competitive and I’m never satisfied. I want the next 800 jobs,” he said. “I see this as a catalyst for growth in our educational programs. Now parents are going to see this in the news and it’s going to create more energy and awareness from them.”