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BPCC program works to meet increasing demand for jobs in cyber security field

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(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS)
(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS)
(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS)
(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS)
BOSSIER CITY, La. (KTBS) -

dThe information security breach at the retail chain Target was one of the largest the nation had ever seen, affecting upwards of 100 million customers.

And it underscores what many in the IT field already knew – the demand is growing for cyber security jobs, and for good reason.

That's where local colleges and universities are stepping up to the plate.

"Anything from the ground up, you just kind of want to make sure that the network is secure and what that means for the company."

24-year-old Andrew Dowd stands among fragments of keyboards and computer monitors in a classroom at Bossier Parish Community College.

Now in his second year in the Computer Information Technology, Network Security Program, the Navy veteran and Haughton native is able to focus on what he describes as a life-long interest in cyberspace.

"From a young age, I was interested in computers. I had computers in my household. We were one of the first generations to start having the PC at home."

Students like Dowd are taught how to develop and strengthen cyber security systems for businesses; think of them as technological security guards.

It's exactly the type of job technology companies like Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), which announced in February its plans to set up shop at the National Cyber Research Park in Bossier City, will be looking to fill.

And while retail giant Target still works to clean up the mess of its massive security breach, Network Security Program Director Chris Rondeau says that particular weak link is just one of the reasons why this field is growing rapidly.

"Even at your house, you have to consider your home wireless network. What are you going to do to protect yourself at your house? And also the industry has to look at what they have to do to protect themselves," says Rondeau.

"It's not a small thing, it's not a fad, and it's going to continue as we can develop technology and technology becomes infused in more of our operations," says BPCC Chancellor Dr. Jim Henderson.

But learning doesn't stop in the school's computer labs stocked full of monitors.

Students are also matched up with a local business as part of an internship, offering in-the-field training that Dowd considers to be an integral component of his educational success.

"I've learned a lot here, but there's just something when you go to a job site that you can learn when you actually put your hands on a product, and you start dealing with the problems of everyday life," he says.

"They have a mentor at a company that's in the local area that tells us what good things and negative things we need to work on and we're ready to improve," explains Laura Goadrich, BPCC's Dean of Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Goadrich says a fundamental part of the college's improvement is obtaining certain certifications, which she says set their program apart and drive employers to take a second look at their graduates.

"Not all programs that you would go to at a 4-year and so forth level would have national certifications tied to their classes."

But even more than top-notch instruction, for Dowd, who's expecting his second child soon with his wife, having access to the training right here at home has been a game-changer.

"In this day and age, most of my generation is having a problem finding a job with their career, and for us to just be offered jobs left and right, it's really nice to have that security," he says. "I would have had to move away to go to school, but fortunately, I was able to stay here with my family."

Some of those certifications include the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS), of which BPCC holds six, rounding out a 3-year process by the Cyber faculty.

The college also holds a designation from the Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance for a 2-year college.

Simply put, this means BPCC has been able to meet increasing demands of the program criteria, and their students are exposed to assignments and experiences that utilize real-world scenarios, making them more marketable to employers.

But BPCC isn't the only higher education institution working to churn out highly skilled graduates in the field of Information Technology and Cyber Security.

Louisiana Tech University in Ruston is partnering with the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City to create a Cyber and Data Consortium.

The group will support the creation of related educational cyber programs within the state, and will meet once every quarter, with its first meeting set for April 22 on Tech's campus.

To find out more about Bossier Parish Community College's Network Security and other programs, call (318) 678-6000, and Louisiana Tech University can be reached at (318) 257-3036.

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