Education for Information Security in a Connected World

Much of what I work on involves technologies which address information security and cyber security. So I have to ask, Who is training our next generation of technologists? And are those educators doing enough to focus on the dynamically changing demands of Information Security?

Those fundamental questions took me to Chicago recently, to take part in a roundtable discussion sponsored by DeVry University, “The Demand for Information Security in a Connected World.”

The roundtable was convened to address “today’s digital world and the emerging threats in a world where information is instantly accessible, and the demand for talent in this growing career field.” I joined Peter Walts, CEO of Centropy; Michael Davis, Author of Hacking Exposed and also CEO of Savid Technologies, and John Giancola, Dean of the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University.

The roundtable was filmed, and several five-minute segments have also been produced from the day’s discussion. Here’s the introductory short film with excerpts about the topic:

All of the video segments and other information are available at this link. I particularly like the piece on “The Value of Education.”

Government’s Role in Supporting Technical Education

Just last week the National Governors Association released a report from its Center for Best Practices, addressing the practical and “increasing necessity for students to obtain a college degree or certificate.” The issue brief, Increasing College Success: A Road Map for Governors, outlines actions governors can take to increase U.S. college completion rates, and also specifically focused on the success rate of “programs of study that integrate career and technical education with academic coursework and that are linked to a two-year college degree or certificate program.” Some coverage of their report is here: “Career Colleges Offer Model.”

The nation’s governors focus on the issue out of necessity, because we’re not turning out enough students from our high schools with a solid grounding in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), or technical competencies needed for the nation’s competitiveness.  And it’s not good for our students themselves!

DeVry University is an example of the kind of program the NGA Center for Best Practices found so successful and worthy of emulation, in a world where their findings hold “a college degree has become the gateway to the middle class. Nearly 75 percent of future jobs will require a postsecondary degree or certificate.” 

Don’t kid yourself about the numbers involved here.  DeVry announced last week (“DeVry Fall Undergrad Enrollment Accelerates“) that its 2009 enrollments rose 22.7 percent to 64,003 across the country. They operate in 90 locations across 26 states. Last year they saw a 16.9 percent jump as well, with the recession’s weak labor market driving students to get more schooling – particularly in the technical fields more in demand today.  (You can find more information about DeVry’s degree programs and study courses, as well as career opportunities in the Information Security field at www.devry.edu/security.)

The network of private or for-profit career colleges like DeVry – turning out tens of thousands of trained technologists in Information Security and other vital fields every year – can actually boast of several advantages, according to the National Governors Association report:

“Publicly funded community colleges also have a lot to learn from private two-year colleges about providing support. Private two-year colleges have much higher graduation rates, especially for African American and Hispanic students [Emphasis added]. What do these colleges, which tend to have an occupational focus, do differently? The private two-year colleges recognize they have nontraditional students who may not always have well-developed plans and who may lack the motivation and organizational skills needed to earn a degree. As a result, these institutions structure their support for students differently than public two-year colleges by providing:

  • A clear pathway to each program’s goal and a clear timeframe;
  • Information systems to track progress closely, which then is used to guide students’ choices;
  • Mandatory advising and peer cohorts that meet regularly; and
  • Active job placement assistance.
          National Governors Association, Center for Best Practices,       “Increasing College Success: Roadmap for Governors” December 2009

As we head into a new decade, thoughts inevitably turn to the future. Across all the areas of activity in which government and technology influence our future course – from national or homeland security, energy policy, social welfare, health care and so on – I would argue that the most pivotal realm of activity for future payoff is education. We’ll need the solid contributions of the DeVrys of the world and their peers representing the nation’s system of “career colleges,” and every other segment of higher-education. 

I had a varied path through education – undergrad degree from Thomas Jefferson’s public-by-design university in Charlottesville, followed by grad school at a hideously expensive private university (thank goodness for my free-ride fellowship).  I spent my teenage years before that in European high schools, where I saw the value of tracked education and a strong network of technical/vocational higher education opportunities. Many of my classmates then intended not to go to a liberal arts college, but to a technical institute or vocational/technical school, to “learn electronics” as we said in the late ’70s.

I also have worked alongside graduates from technical career colleges during my years in the technology industry – and have now watched as Microsoft and its competitors fight among themselves for talented college graduates nationwide from the widest spectrum of college backgrounds. Our industry, our nation, and the world all need to support and reward a menu of higher technical education choices.

If you’d like to read more about the role of career colleges (or “market-funded” schools as they’re sometimes called) in providing a critical platform of technology professionals, see the debate in the Inside Higher Ed report of a research conference sponsored by the University of Southern California, University of Phoenix, and the Lumina Foundation for Education, which brought together leaders and researchers from every kind of university and college system. DeVry’s CEO received support there for his call for “a new level of cooperation among our institutions — a new day” centered on research about which educational approaches work best for which populations of students. By the way, I’m happy to point out that folks from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took part in that conference. 

“It’s no secret the U.S. education system is failing, [so] we’re doing all kinds of experiments that are different.”  Bill Gates 

The Gates Foundation provides some $200 million a year on grants to elementary and secondary education, and I know they care deeply about the opportunities for those students in the post-secondary realm. Let me know what you think about the subject.

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5 Responses

  1. i believe that technical eduction is the need of today’s digital world . we need to grow technical standards as the information is easily accessible for better security.

  2. Thanks for the informative site. I keep coming back, as the information is first class. Thanks

  3. lovely post!! I have read some of your posts and is really impressed. I am adding your blog to my RSS Feed reader.

  4. Thanks, IST – just checked out your own site, looks like some really interesting training being provided. http://www.information-security-training.com

  5. Made for interesting reading during my lunch break. Awesome!

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