MCC plans cybersecurity program expansion

CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry County College could receive a $1.4 million federal grant to bolster its cybersecurity program and install a state-of-the-art cybersecurity computer lab.

MCC is one of eight community colleges in the country that could be selected to train potential employees for one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the nation and county, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

The agency projects that cybersecurity jobs will increase about 26 percent each in DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties within the next 10 years.

Tony Miksa, MCC’s vice president of academic and student affairs, said the grant would enhance a program that already has helped fill some of the 386 cybersecurity jobs in the county.

“This is a growing sector, so it is important for the college to provide the skills needed for people in the community to get the jobs they need to better their future,” Miksa said. “This will take our curriculum to the next level.”

The grant, which would cover a four-year startup period, would allow the college to hire a program director and assistant, and set up a $326,000 cybersecurity lab that would be housed in existing space. Once the period ended, existing staff would take over the program.

Jim Falco, MCC’s executive dean for business and technology, said the college would have to hit certain benchmarks set by the federal government, and those benchmarks could lead to National Security Agency and Homeland Security accreditation.

“We would love to have that accreditation because it’s the gold standard in cybersecurity,” Falco said. “It would move our students’ résumés to the top of the pile.”

The potential grant would be the second award given to McHenry County College as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance initiative – a four-year, $2 billion federal program that helps community colleges develop job programs and training partnerships with local employers.

MCC received a piece of a $12.9 million grant from the program in 2012 to expand its manufacturing programs, including computer numerical control, robotics and welding.

Officials said they would know whether they receive the cybersecurity grant by October.

Optimism is high for the award because the college already has been selected for a grant through the program, and the leading institution of the eight-college consortium is Houston Community College, which has been nationally recognized for its program.

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