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Industry Experts Discuss the Role of Higher Education in Training New Talent

The city of San Antonio is consistently looking to grow and enhance the capabilities of its cybersecurity workforce, as it aims to become a ‘global industry leader’ in both cybersecurity and IT. The effects of the city’s drive to become a leader are apparent, as public and private cybersecurity agencies and companies grow and operate in the city, creating a large workforce focused solely on this important and rapidly expanding industry. The role higher education plays in this industry is more crucial than ever, as local education providers work to bridge the gap that currently exists between San Antonio’s supply and demand for trained cybersecurity workers.

Recently The San Antonio Economic Development Foundation’s workforce development program, SA Works, held an IT & Cybersecurity workforce summit with industry leaders and experts. Leaders for the program presented their findings in a job report, outlining the trends in the top technology occupations focusing on the number of new jobs, the required entry-level education, and the average annual wages in the San Antonio-New Braunfels MSA during 2018. The report found that there were 15,000 unique job postings in the IT industry between February 2018 and July 2018. The monthly average during this period was over 6,000 new postings, with over 1,400 reported hires. This post-to-hire ratio of 24% signals that job growth is outpacing the supply of trained and qualified workers in this industry.

Participants and panelists discussed the current and future state of San Antonio’s IT and Cybersecurity industries, as well as the different methods cybersecurity companies collaborate with higher education institutions to grow more talent locally and assist in alleviating this growing issue. One panelist at the event, Hallmark University Cybersecurity student Jose “Ricky” Banda, shared his unique story and background in cybersecurity with the panel audience.

“I competed in Cyber Patriot around 11 years ago, and it spun up a successful career for me, having worked for the Department of Defense, various cybersecurity contractors, Rackspace, and now Blackbaud,” said Jose Banda, Cybersecurity student in Hallmark University’s School of IT. “I try to help the community where and when possible and also show others a non-traditional path to finding success.”

Jose has eight years of experience in the field of cybersecurity and has attained twelve IT certifications at that time. As a Principal Cyber Security Engineer at Blackbaud, Ricky oversees various enterprise security projects for the company including threat hunting, enterprise log management, incident response, and security advisement.

“My major motivation these last couple of years has been to bridge the gap between at-risk communities and influencers of various industries. As a neurodiverse individual from a low-income, minority family, I want to assist in empowering others to become successful in their goals and dreams, while connecting those individuals with mentors and influencers… We as a community must find some method to bring educational and influential opportunity to those communities that have limited resources.”

The emerging and broadening profession of cybersecurity has seen a rise in demand for highly skilled specialists with technical skill sets. Opportunities to enter the workforce in IT and Cybersecurity are available and rapidly expanding, providing a greater chance to a wide range of individuals to join the workforce who possess a diverse sets of skills, making it more crucial than ever to offer any hidden talent with the opportunity to receive the proper training in this promising field.

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