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Energy Industry Coalition Addresses Cybersecurity Skills Gap

Feb. 6, 2014
Partnership provides path for energy industry employees to earn degrees at the undergraduate and graduate-levels

Throughout the country, more cybersecurity workers are in demand across various industries as the need to safeguard the nation’s technological capabilities increases. Of particular concern is the security and reliability of our energy and utility infrastructure. This urgency is underscored by the formidable threat of cyber attacks, which annually cost the United States more than $110 billion.

To help meet this employment demand in the energy industry, the Energy Providers Coalition for Education (EPCE) has joined with Excelsior College, an accredited, nonprofit, distance learning institution to offer an online cybersecurity education program for energy industry workers.

Offered through Excelsior’s School of Business & Technology, the EPCE-sponsored online Bachelor of Science in Cyber Operations provides students with the necessary skills and training to decrease the energy grid’s vulnerability to cyber attacks and mitigate the effects of cyber terrorism. This training provides students with the needed proficiencies in areas such as vulnerability assessments and remediation planning, cryptographic analysis and solutions, secure operations and controls, forensic investigations and reverse engineering. This undergraduate program is one of five offered by Excelsior in cybersecurity that has been certified to meet all six of the National Security Agency’s Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS) Training Standards.  In addition to the undergraduate track, students can also pursue a Master of Science in Cybersecurity.

The undergraduate and graduate Cybersecurity programs are offered in an online environment to allow the students the ability complete their studies while balancing work and professional responsibilities. These Cybersecurity online degrees offer 11 bachelor’s and nine master’s courses specific to cybersecurity and cyber operations. Students who successfully complete the program will be able to identify, assess and respond to cyber attacks that threaten national security and the security of the energy infrastructure. Graduates will also be able to utilize their professional skills in risk assessment and mitigation through appropriate policies and procedures, processes and technologies.

Excelsior College also offers a BS in IT with a concentration in Cybersecurity Technology; an MBA with a concentration in Cybersecurity Management; and Cybersecurity Certificates at both the undergraduate and graduate-level. 

Excelsior is also home to the National Cybersecurity Institute (NCI) – an academic and research center that specializes in the development of effective workforce cyber security practices – located in Washington, D.C. Dr. Jane LeClair, chief operating officer of NCI, says the EPCE/Excelsior partnership “will target essential needs in the energy industry and help expand the pool of skilled workers capable of supporting a cyber-secure nation.”

EPCE Director Christine Carpenter says that the program will be particularly helpful in addressing cybersecurity issues pertaining to the utilities industry.

"Utilities do an excellent job of managing the traditional types of risks facing their operations,” says Carpenter. “However, cybersecurity is the one category of risk that remains stubbornly resistant to attempts to manage, monitor and measure. These degree programs will help energy providers develop talent that can address this risk.”

This current effort is a continuation of collaborative efforts between Excelsior and EPCE on workforce development, such as the fast-approaching need for leadership in the nuclear utility industry. Most recently, the two organizations worked together to reengineer Excelsior’s Bachelor of Science in Electronics Engineering Technology to include concentrations in nanotechnology and power systems. That program is designed to provide preparation for students interested in employment in various aspects of the power industry and enable them to advance their careers in, power or even electronic manufacturing. 

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