(HUTTO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Cybersecurity program at the Williamson County campus is shifting all teaching and labs online this fall.
The prospect of reaching prospective students in the Austin area and beyond to teach them about computer systems forensics, digital forensics, routers and other topics is proving exciting to Joshua Schier, the program’s lead instructor.
“When winds of change are blowing, the best thing you can do is accept it and adapt to the current condition,” he said. “And as the year of the coronavirus has put many of us in this situation, it does not have to be all doom and gloom. This is actually a fantastic opportunity. The obvious step for us was to enhance and improve our online teaching methodologies and curriculum.”
Doug Peters, a TSTC Cybersecurity instructor, said students taking classes online can help themselves adjust to doing the remote work that a lot of them could encounter in the workplace. He said creating accountability will be a component of all classes, from gathering at regular times online to turning homework in on time.
New to the program this fall will be a one-semester Occupational Skills Award in Basic Cybersecurity consisting of three classes. The student can complete this in four months.
“This will fast-track Texans into entry-level roles in a new career or provide specialized training for Texans to advance in their current field,” Schier said.
Cara DiMattina-Ryan, chief strategy officer for Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area in Cedar Park, said Burnet, Caldwell and Llano counties, along with other rural counties in Central Texas, are increasing broadband capability for residents. She said this could drive more people to study cybersecurity and other programs online and hopefully make it possible for them to work in their home counties.
Brian Hernandez, Workforce Solutions’ communications director, said there are more than 800 network and computer systems administrator jobs open and more than 500 information security analyst positions open in the agency’s 10-county area.
“The more certifications you add on, the more you increase your value and demand for services,” he said. “We would much rather develop our local workforce to move them from under-employment to gainful employment.”
Schier said the key to Williamson County’s Cybersecurity graduates getting good-paying jobs in the region is by word of mouth. He cited Contigo Technology in Austin as an example of an area company that has hired TSTC program graduates.
DiMattina-Ryan said Workforce Solutions has found several California tech companies are starting to consider moving to Texas, specifically the Greater Austin area.
“As that increases, that will also increase job potential and diversify those skills that we need in these kinds of cyber areas and these information technology fields in general,” she said.
Texas had more than 10,400 information security analysts earning an annual mean wage of $108,810 in May 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Austin-Round Rock area employed more than 1,500 information security analysts making an annual mean wage of $114,280 in May 2019, according to the agency.
The need for information security analysts is expected to rise to more than 147,000 through 2028, according to the agency. The need for workers is attributed to companies having to fight sophisticated hackers in order to protect sensitive information.
“If you are interested in this kind of field, I think it is the absolutely right time to explore,” DiMattina-Ryan said. “What a great profession you can do all online. COVID-19 is changing the landscape of how we are doing business and how we are looking at business.”
TSTC’s Cybersecurity programs at the Fort Bend County, Harlingen, Marshall, North Texas and Waco campuses also will move online this fall. The online Digital Forensics Specialist advanced technical certificate will expand to these campuses, including Williamson County.
Registration for the fall semester is underway.
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.