UW-Whitewater awarded nearly $2 million federal cybersecurity grant

February 21, 2020

Photos by Craig Schreiner  |  Written by  Kristine Zaballos

Person on computer in Hyland Hall.

 

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is one of 28 recipients of a U.S. Department of Labor grant totaling nearly $100 million through the Apprenticeship: Closing the Skills Gap grant program. The funding will support large-scale expansions of apprenticeship in industries including advanced manufacturing, healthcare and information technology.

UW-Whitewater’s award, which totals $1,999,961, will support apprenticeships in cybersecurity and related areas. The grant focuses on unemployed and underemployed Wisconsin residents — especially veterans and Native Americans — with a total of 1,600 apprentices expected to be credentialed and trained.

The grant is a result of a collaboration among the College of Business and Economics, which houses the university’s new cybersecurity program, the Department of Computer Science in the College of Letters and Sciences, and the university’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Brian S. Dennis, the director of the Cyber Security Center for Small Business, Roger Yin, professor of information technology and supply chain management, Kevin Kaufman, director of the Small Business Development Center, and Jiazhen Zhou, associate professor of computer science, will be among the key personnel implementing the grant.

“We are excited to provide training in the growing cybersecurity field for the people of Wisconsin,” said Kaufman. “Approximately 4,900 open jobs are unfilled in the state right now, and we hope that with this program we can provide residents with the critical training and skills they need to fill a good portion of them.”

Under the grant, the university will develop and deploy a curriculum to train and credential cybersecurity apprentices over the coming four years. The program will develop content, standards and services aimed at filling cybersecurity jobs in Wisconsin.

“Cybersecurity is a concern for every business, every government and every person. To rapidly grow the necessary workforce, we need to invest in every level of the educational pathway. Thanks to this funding opportunity, UW-Whitewater is uniquely poised to begin delivering a well-trained workforce for the Wisconsin cyber sector,” said Dennis.

As a starting point, the apprenticeship program will partner with approximately 700 private companies and public and K-12 sectors to identify where specific skills gaps exist. All 1,600 participants will be enrolled in education and training programs to prepare them for entry-level positions in cybersecurity careers. In addition, the program will provide an eight-week online educational training course with weekend computer classroom experiential learning lab exercises to the recruited apprentices. After the training, the apprentices should possess the basic body of knowledge to study for the CompTIA Security+ certification, a critical industry credential.

Questions about the grant, which is expected to be active between March 1, 2020 and Feb. 29, 2024, should be directed to Brian S. Dennis, the director of the Cyber Security Center for Small Businesses, at dennisb@uww.edu or 262-472-3936.