Increasing the cybersecurity workforce, one student at a time
Randy Ramos is a visionary and entrepreneur who sees a need and finds a way to meet it — an approach that has proven successful with his IT and technology training company, Global Business Solutions, Inc. (GBSI).
When Ramos started the company in 1995 in Pensacola, he realized that, while government and defense workers had access to cutting-edge technology, they lacked current up-to-the-minute IT and cybersecurity training. “Our company was founded to provide technical training for the government on everything from Oracle, Red Hat and Java to other types of technologies,” explains Ramos, CEO. Today, GBSI has trained over 480,000 military personnel and provides cybersecurity training, enterprise training, and credentialing to the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Department of Defense and other government departments.
“Around 2013, being an employer of IT and cybersecurity professionals, we started to see the critical need for an experienced and skilled workforce. We began building community awareness and developing educational programs for adult learners,” Ramos explains. Cybersecurity has become one of the most important national security issues for our country. Forbes reports there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. by 2021. It is apparent that cybersecurity is an essential skillset for IT and business professionals. There is an urgent need to educate and certify job seekers long before they reach the workforce. Ramos is meeting this challenge head-on by building on his already successful training formula to include a cybersecurity program for college and career students.
The Center for Cybersecurity at the University of West Florida
Ramos approached the University of West Florida (UWF) emphasizing the need for a workforce development pipeline that would equip students with the right skills and certifications to immediately land jobs upon graduation. Ramos also lobbied the State of Florida to enable Pensacola State College to begin a Cybersecurity degree program. “The demand for cybersecurity skills is so vast that having two-year and four-year degree options is necessary to keep pace with changing technology and produce qualified workers,” Ramos says. The Center for Cybersecurity at UWF has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Accelerating Cybersecurity Career and Technical Education
Encouraged by the growth of college and university cybersecurity programs, Ramos and the GBSI team set about addressing another need. “While the Center for Cybersecurity at UWF has been successful, it also highlighted the fact that many incoming students do not have the foundational knowledge or skills needed to enter the collegiate program,” Ramos explains. “We realized that developing programs for college and career students wasn’t really that different. After all, IT training for a military career is very similar for a college student seeking employment after graduation,” Ramos says.
“We decided to develop a cybersecurity vocational program for high schools — which led to a middle school program to prepare those kids for the high school program. Again, it wasn’t a very big jump to adapt our educational training to teach 15-year-old students and then 13-year-old students.”
What started as a labor of love has now turned into ACCELETRAIN® Cybersecurity Career and Technical Education (CTE), the first cybersecurity CTE program of its kind, developed by industry to meet growing needs. Courses are offered in sequence so students can earn stackable certifications in computing and technologies, network security, cybersecurity, and threat analysis. “When completed, students can graduate high school earning salaries as cybersecurity professionals in the $50-55,000 range with no student loans. We have companies hiring our high school graduates and paying for their college education,” Ramos says.
The GBSI ACCELETRAIN® program can be replicated in virtually any school in the country. It requires no qualified cyber instructors, no technically advanced support team or complex computer configurations. Instead, everything is included in the GBSI curriculum, from lesson plans, grading rubrics, quizzes and exams, and preconfigured cloud-based hands-on performance labs — all designed to meet requisite state education standards.
The GBSI ACCELETRAIN® program also meets the challenge of satisfying a qualified teacher shortage in the IT/Cybersecurity realm by implementing a unique training solution. GBSI instructors broadcast from studios at the home office in Pensacola to schools all over the nation. The instructors are credentialed teachers and hold industry cybersecurity certifications. GBSI instructors not only teach the students, they also teach classroom teachers through co-teaching and direct teacher professional development, a unique approach to successful program startup and long-term sustainability.
When Florida students pass certain certifications, their schools receive funding from the Career and Professional Education Act (CAPE) — an easy way to ensure future program sustainability. In the 2018-2019 school year, 371 students were enrolled in the GBSI ACCELETRAIN® cybersecurity program. Of those, 266 students tested for certification and 205 were certified.
In 2019, the GBSI/ACCELETRAIN® program received the Florida Career Pathways Network (FCPN) Best Practice Award. Last year the company also presented the GBSI model at the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) conference in California to tremendous interest. This has led to additional schools across the country seeking interest in the program.
Some teachers have questioned whether their students can succeed in a cybersecurity program. Ramos responds, “Football players have a field; basketball players have a court; swimmers have a pool. We’ve developed a digital playing field for students to learn and develop technical skills.”
Currently, ACCELETRAIN® is part of the curriculum in 28 schools enrolling 850 students. With several partnerships in the works with other states, the GBSI program keeps growing in both numbers and credibility. “We’ve taken an innovative approach to increasing student and teacher capacity in cybersecurity and developed a program, designed to create a cybersecurity workforce talent pipeline, employable upon graduation.”
“When completed, students can graduate high school earning salaries as cybersecurity professionals in the $50-55,000 range with no student loans. We have companies hiring our high school graduates and paying for their college education.” - Randy Ramos, CEO, Global Business Solutions
Global Business Solutions Mission: To increase student and teacher capacity in cybersecurity
GBSI Current and Slated Programs in Florida:
- Broward County
- Miami-Dade County
- Escambia County
- Hernando County
- Santa Rosa County and in San Bernardino County, CA
For More Information, contact: Global Business Solutions, Inc. | www.acceletrain.com | 850.308.1336