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NOVA President Scott Ralls Talks Cybersecurity Education and the Role of Community Colleges in Economic Recovery

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NOVA President Scott Ralls provides testimony on Capitol Hill during a joint hearing on “Public-Private Solutions to Educating a Cyber Workforce.”
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NOVA President talks cybersecurity and the role of community colleges in economic development. Photo courtesy of the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Dr. Scott Ralls, president of Northern Virginia Community College, recently provided testimony on Capitol Hill during a joint hearing on “Public-Private Solutions to Educating a Cyber Workforce.” The hearing was held by the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development of the Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection of the Committee on Homeland Security.

During his testimony, Ralls discussed the greater Washington area’s growing need to have educated and highly-skilled employees in the cybersecurity and IT fields. He also highlighted what NOVA is doing to fill those positions in the region – emphasizing NOVA’s growing cybersecurity program, which grew from a certificate program four years ago into a separate, applied associate degree. The cybersecurity program at NOVA has since expanded from an initial 50 students to nearly 1,500 today. 

“The road to economic recovery from the Great Recession has run right through the middle of America’s community colleges,” Ralls said to committee members. “As we emerge into a new era of net job growth, community colleges again stand at the forefront in addressing talent and skills gaps. Because we’re overrepresented by students from first generation, low income and minority backgrounds, community colleges are uniquely situated to provide a gateway to economic opportunity that must draw a wider population to address overall talent gaps.”

In the greater Washington region alone, cybersecurity job postings have grown 74 percent since 2014. Ralls explained to the committee how NOVA is doing its part by implementing and executing a multi-faceted strategy to educate and equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in the cybersecurity and IT fields.

“We are taking a multi-faceted strategy to address the cybersecurity workforce challenge in our region. We do so not only because it meets employer needs, but most importantly, it helps our students understand the needs of Northern Virginia employers like General Dynamics, Booz Allen and CACI,” he said. “But to solve this problem requires an even deeper engagement between industry, education and state and federal partners all working toward a common goal of increasing awareness, making cyber pathways clear and easy to navigate and providing work-learn opportunities in greater numbers.”

Other witnesses who provided testimony during the joint hearing included The Honorable Stephen Cambone, Associate Vice Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System; Douglas Rapp, president of Rofori Corporation-DEFCON Cyber, who testified on behalf of the Cyber Leadership Alliance; and David Jarvis, Security and CIO Lead for IBM Institute for Business Value. See the video of the joint hearing here.

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.

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