Western Nevada College has reached the crest — the top 3 percent — of U.S. colleges in identifying students with a natural aptitude to excel in cybersecurity. WNC efforts are playing a pivotal role in the national initiative launched by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and 24 other governors to close the elite cyber skills gap with China and Russia.
After 17 days of Cyber FastTrack competition monitored by SANS Institute, WNC ranked No. 4 in Nevada and No. 135 out of 5,200 colleges across the nation in the number of students discovering their aptitude for cybersecurity careers.
According to Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, “The leadership shown by Western Nevada College is commendable. Without the talent being discovered in Cyber FastTrack, shortages of elite talent will put the United States at a severe disadvantage in protecting power systems, financial systems and military systems in times of conflict, and protecting businesses and personal privacy in peace time. Western Nevada College has set a high bar for other schools in Nevada and in the nation.”
The Cyber Fast Track program was developed by SAN Institute to provide a gauge for interest and aptitude in the various knowledge and skill areas with respect to Cybersecurity. Interest was judged by the number of students engaged in the program.
“I presented the challenge to my students across all of the CIT and Cisco courses and had 12 sign up,” said WNC Networking Technologies Instructor Dave Riske. “Most are also members of the newly minted WNCyber Cybersecurity Club.”
Aptitude with the various challenges can be judged by the scores, which are aggregate to the institution.
“WNC was recognized because our students are performing in these challenges in the top 3 percent of all student participating nationally. What it means for WNC students is the opportunity to receive national recognition as well as scholarship opportunities,” Riske said.
To reference the state-by-state Cyber FastTrack leaderboard, go to www.sans.org/cyber-fast-track/state-ranking and the national rankings can be accessed at www.sans.org/cyber-fast-track/nationally-ranked.
Students who do well in the assessment will be granted access to a simulation/game called CyberStart in which they solve increasingly challenging real-world problems faced by cybersecurity professionals. They will also gain access to CyberStart Essentials, a hands-on, online cybersecurity foundations course, and they will become eligible for $2.5 million in scholarships for advanced study in cybersecurity and direct connections to employers seeking elite cyber talent.
In launching Cyber Fastrack, state governors have encouraged high school students and college students to discover whether they liked cybersecurity challenges and possessed the tenacity, curiosity and problem-solving skills needed by professionals in the field.
For more information on Cyber FastTrack, go to www.cyber-fasttrack.org.
Individuals interested in cybersecurity can now register for Fall semester. New students can get started by applying for admission at www.wnc.edu/starthere/ and scheduling a meeting with an academic advisor through Counseling Services at 775-445-3267.