Accelerate Montana Program Spotlight Series: CyberMontana
August 2, 2022 •Accelerate Montana Team
Welcome to Accelerate Montana’s Program Spotlight Series! In this series of blog posts, you will meet our leaders and team members who lead their fields and are subject matter experts in their areas of business and career development and learn more about each program within Accelerate Montana. In this post, we’ll explore CyberMontana, a statewide initiative providing cybersecurity awareness, training, and workforce development for businesses and residents of Montana of all ages and levels of experience.
What Is CyberMontana?
Funded by the Montana State Legislature during the 2021 session, CyberMontana is a statewide initiative providing cybersecurity awareness, training, and workforce development for businesses and residents of Montana. CyberMontana’s primary mission is to train people so they can become a participant in the cybersecurity field.
If you are in sixth grade or older, CyberMontana is your resource for cybersecurity education. STEM summer camps are available for middle school students, early college programs for high school students, college programs for traditional new learners and those seeking higher education, as well as training for those who are already in the workforce. Regardless of your age or technical skill level, CyberMontana has programs that will fit your needs. Overall, this initiative educates people across various levels about cybersecurity in the state of Montana. Anyone who uses computers could benefit from learning about best practices and increasing what we call defensive posture.
Why Is Cybersecurity so Important?
The need for cybersecurity and its relative importance has grown in correlation with how much people use computers.
The internet and computers are integrated into so many aspects of our daily lives. Many people are used to thinking about computers and the internet being used for work and research, but we all use the internet and computer devices in all areas of our lives including all personal interactions as well as the so-called "internet of things" which include all of the interconnected technologies we have in our homes. The scary part is that if a device is connected to the internet, it is available for anybody in the world to try to get access to that device and possibly compromise it.
What Does CyberMontana Do?
CyberMontana focuses on educating Montanans about cybersecurity, and it works with technical and non-technical audiences. CyberMontana helps the state’s cybersecurity on a much higher level too. Cybersecurity expertise is in high demand statewide and nationwide with data systems across various public departments that hold personal information that needs to be kept secure for residents of Montana. CyberMontana works to keep your information safe, and in fact, even works with the National Guard to assist with cybersecurity measures.
How Did CyberMontana Get Started?
Missoula College has been designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, which is a rigorous designation from the National Security Agency and other federal agencies. This designation was earned initially in 2017, and Missoula College was the first institution in the state of Montana to do so. Due to already having been designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, and recognition of the growing high demand for cybersecurity workers, CyberMontana was officially created through a legislative allocation in an effort to strengthen the state’s cybersecurity practices.
Where Is CyberMontana Based and What Communities Does It Serve Across Montana?
While the program is based out of Missoula College, CyberMontana programming and courses are offered to people and institutions across the state of Montana. In fact, CyberMontana is in the process of recruiting outreach coordinators that will establish working relationships with communities from the K-12 schools to the institutions of higher education and to the businesses who are located there.
What Is CyberMontana’s Niche?
CyberMontana seeks to fill the tremendous gap in trained cyber professionals at every level and within local, state, national, and global markets. The need for a trained cyber workforce is stunning and growing as fast as technology is changing. And a cybersecurity professional trained here in Montana can either work and grow their career here, abroad or both. There is a global demand for approximately 9 million cybersecurity professionals, but we currently have around 5 million. In order to fulfill the global need, the industry needs to grow about 40% adding 4 million new workers to the field.
One primary goal for increasing cybersecurity professionals across the state of Montana specifically is to encourage people to get into the cybersecurity pipeline in various ways. This includes starting young with middle school and high school students to increase the likelihood of them considering a cyber career. CyberMontana also works to combat the workforce disparities in the cybersecurity industry, seeking to help develop confidence in all people, regardless of gender, age, or ethnicity, and enable them to pursue what will be a dynamic, challenging, and rewarding career in this field.
Additionally, CyberMontana’s early college programs for high school students can set people up for success, enabling them to begin building their careers and potentially join the workforce at an early age. Ultimately, there is a high demand in this industry for qualified employees and CyberMontana is exploring various ways to enable people to get the training they need to begin a career in the field and add skills and qualifications as they go - adding value to their own careers as well as to employers and ultimately, society.
What Is the Main Problem that CyberMontana Solves?
The cybersecurity industry often feels intimidating when people are first joining the field. Many people believe that you have to have years of college study at a great personal expense in order to qualify for cybersecurity positions. While traditional college programs are extremely beneficial, it is not the only way for individuals to learn about and gain skills in cybersecurity. For example, CyberMontana’s Cyber Rapid Training Certificate in Technical Studies Program allows individuals to take a less-traditional approach to enter cybersecurity.
Additionally, the program seeks to address rural areas. There are 17 higher education institutions across the state of Montana, but they're all located in more populated areas. The program is striving to reach more rural areas including native and tribal populations across the state.
What Does CyberMontana Offer?
CyberMontana works with Montanans through four main initiatives:
- K-12 initiatives with summer camps and early college programs
- Security awareness training for technical and non-technical employees across Montana
- Courses to jumpstart your cyber career with 1-2 year programs, and our Cyber Rapid Training CTS Program
- Workforce development with industry-recognized certifications
All of these programs are developed with a focus on the skill areas that are most relevant to each stakeholder and the level of knowledge attainment, and that is most needed in the market. Programs are designed to meet workforce requirements and to prepare individuals for the jobs in highest demand.
What Can People Expect If They Sign up for the Cyber Rapid Training CTS Program?
The Cyber Rapid Training Certificate of Technical Studies Program is an accelerated option for students to learn and gain skills to start a cybersecurity career across 12-15 weeks. During those weeks, students should expect this program to be a full-time commitment. There is a steep learning curve. For example, one of the biggest challenges is learning, and becoming conversant with, the highly specialized cybersecurity vocabulary. The CyberMontana approach is therefore accelerated while being fully immersive.
Starting Salaries for Cybersecurity Careers
What salary is normal for someone who completes the Cyber Rapid Training CTS Program? One common entry-level position that people pursue after the Cyber Rapid Training CTS Program is a network administrator. The median hourly wage for network administrators or computer system administrators in Montana is about $33 per hour and increases to an average of $40 per hour on a national level. After a little bit of experience, people commonly move into a computer analyst role with a median hourly wage of $45 per hour in Montana, then a security analyst with a median hourly wage of $50 per hour.
How Does the Cyber Field in Montana Impact Montana's Economic Development?
Many small businesses in Montana underestimate the economic impact that cyber threats pose. We must account for the cost to remediate after a security breach. Cyber hygiene and security awareness can greatly impact small businesses throughout Montana. Improving the cybersecurity knowledge and defensive posture of employees across the state can mitigate financial losses. Being proactive and trying to lower your risk and increase your defensive posture is only going to help your bottom line.
AccelerateMontana and CyberMontana
AccelerateMontana is proud to be helping Montanans upskill and prepare for new careers through our Rapid Training Program initiatives and other initiatives. CyberMontana is one of our many workforce development programs designed to build careers and advance our economy in a way that is streamlined, responsive to new workforce needs, addresses skills gaps, and meets the desire of learners to build skills on their own time and at their speed. Stay tuned to learn more about the rest of our programs in upcoming blog posts.