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State Expands Cyber Reskilling Program

Stacy M. Brown | 9/6/2019, 6 a.m.
The SANS Institute announced the expansion of funding for its Cyber Workforce Academy – Maryland, a program designed to develop ...
Whitney White graduated in 2018 from Cyber Workforce Academy – Maryland, a program designed to develop a cybersecurity talent pipeline across the state Courtesy Photo

The SANS Institute announced the expansion of funding for its Cyber Workforce Academy – Maryland, a program designed to develop a cybersecurity talent pipeline across the state.

The Cyber Workforce Academy – Maryland was originally launched in 2018 through an Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) Implementation Grant from the Maryland Department of Labor.

This year’s EARN grant renewal enables SANS to extend the Cyber Workforce Academy – Maryland through May 2021.

Whitney White, who graduated from the program in 2018, said she discovered the program through a friend. White said she was seeking a way to break into the field of Internet technology (IT) and her friend informed her of the SANS program.

Courtesy Photo

“Thanks to the [program], I could change career fields very quickly without the need to go back to school and take out more student loans,” White said about the 100 percent scholarship-based SANS program. “The program is the reason I have my job [in IT] today.”

Since its inception, the program has trained over 75 qualified Maryland residents, with a focus on enrolling women, veterans, and minorities. It has provided real world, hands-on cybersecurity skills often valued by employers.

Training is held at various locations throughout Maryland and online.

With the grant renewal, the program will be able to serve another 95 participants, according to program officials.

“The Maryland Department of Labor is pleased to continue our partnership with the SANS Cyber Workforce Academy through EARN Maryland,” Acting Secretary James Rzepkowski, said in a statement. “This program is successfully helping to meet the critical need for a highly skilled cyber security workforce while providing invaluable opportunities for women, veterans and minorities.”

Maryland graduates are working in a variety of technical cybersecurity positions for leading local employers like GEICO, IronNet Cybersecurity, and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Program officials said graduates are tripling their income and are making a difference by helping defend their employers’ networks and critical infrastructure.

They are working as cyber analysts, security analysts, SOC analysts, system administrators, and system engineers.

“My background is in event sales and marketing,” said White who earned several certifications that’s allowed her to work for one of the nation’s largest auto insurance companies. “I spent A LOT of time studying the course materials and doing labs over and over. I read up on basic computer science topics that helped me better understand the training and coursework. I also reached out to other people in my cohort and our mentor for help.

“They told us that this immersion program would be hard and intense but it was still more challenging than I thought it would be. Conversely, I was pleasantly surprised, by the many resources that SANS provided both during and after the program. This Academy is designed to really set participants up for success.”

Established in 1989 as a cooperative research and education organization, The SANS Institute’s accelerated cybersecurity training program offers students advanced technical training, industry-recognized certifications and the hands-on cyber defense and incident handling skills sought after by Maryland employers.

The Academy builds on the success of the SANS VetSuccess, Women’s, and Diversity Cyber Academies.

“If you are in the program, take advantage of all the resources that are offered and attend other local cyber security networking events,” White said when asked what advice she would give others in the program or those who might be considering signing up. “Make sure you are willing to commit to a lot of time studying and completing course work. In the end, it will be worth it. I promise.”

Program details and cohort schedules are available at https://www.sans.org/cyberworkforce-md.