A new cybersecurity training hub at Northern Michigan University will accelerate talent development for the high-demand cybersecurity industry, creating jobs in the Upper Peninsula and making U.P. residents and businesses less vulnerable to attacks by hackers. Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) today announced plans to open the hub as part of the Michigan Cyber Range Network.
“There are more than 300,000 unfilled cyber jobs nationwide and 7,000 in Michigan,” said Steve VandenAvond, program manager and NMU vice president for Extended Learning and Community Engagement. “Northern is eager to lead the U.P. effort to close the talent gap in collaboration with education and industry partners. Our hub will offer accelerated paths to careers in the industry, augment NMU’s existing cyber defense academic program, and provide training and certification for professionals. The portability of cybersecurity careers makes them an ideal fit for individuals who want to be gainfully employed while enjoying the U.P.’s highly desirable lifestyle and geography.”
NMU will partner with U.P. universities, community colleges and school districts to develop innovative competency, apprenticeship and experience-based learning pathways at the secondary and post-secondary level.
“Our program will drive innovation through collaboration between education and industry,” said Dave Nyberg, NMU director of corporate engagement. “It will deliver experience-based talent development in an agile framework, elevate the awareness of cybersecurity threats and opportunities—aligning with Michigan’s interests and needs—and create an ecosystem to incubate new business innovation.”
Based on demonstrated success with previous partnerships, NMU was asked by state leaders to serve as a champion for the Marshall Plan for Talent, a $100 million investment in innovative education and training programs to prepare Michiganders for high-demand careers. NMU convened talent consortiums to develop collaborative proposals that address talent shortages in two areas, including cybersecurity. Members of the U.P. consortium focused on that industry include IBM and GRIMM, a cybersecurity research/engineering firm and advocate of connected and automated vehicles.
Nyberg said NMU is also working on the initiative with Invest UP, a privately-funded economic growth organization led by U.P. business and education leaders, and has begun exploratory conversations with other national companies that have a high demand for professionals with competencies in security platforms and cloud computing.
Keith Glendon, a 1998 graduate of NMU, is global program director-Strategy & Business Development for IBM. He works remotely from his hometown of Marquette, launched an IBM-NMU alliance to develop and hire NMU cybersecurity students, and is an active proponent of a technology-led U.P. economy. Glendon said the hub presents a tremendous opportunity for youth and middle college programs. He served in the U.S. Army and said he also sees strong potential in retraining military veterans for cybersecurity careers.
“I’ve talked to a lot of vets and one thing they share in common is trying to figure out what to do when they return to civilian life,” he said. “They have the right mentality to work in cybersecurity because they tend to assume leadership roles when challenging situations arise. They also have security clearance. IBM recognizes this and has set a target to hire 7,000 vets by 2020. Northern could work with the Michigan National Guard to quickly retrain U.P. veterans for these careers.”
Statewide hubs are powered by Merit Network, which also serves as the backbone of NMU’s Educational Access Network that delivers high-speed internet to rural U.P. communities. The hubs operate in partnership with the Michigan Defense Center, an extension of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
Gov. Snyder said in a press release that cybersecurity is at the forefront of almost any conversation across multiple industries, as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace.
“The demand for talent in the cybersecurity field continues to increase and it is critical for Michigan to fill this talent pipeline,” he added. “The expansion of the Michigan Cyber Range with these two new hubs demonstrates Michigan’s dedication to continue offering students and their surrounding communities the tools and resources needed for jobs of the future.”
NMU’s next steps are to finalize logistics with Merit Network, determine a campus location for the cyber hub, and recruit students and educators for training.
An NMU student-produced podcast related to the cyber hub will be available at nmu.edu/mc/nmu-podcast.