Mike Qaissaunee, a professor in the department of engineering and technology at Brookdale Community College, was among 13 in the country selected to receive a “People Who Made a Difference in Cybersecurity 2013” award from the SANS Institute. The SANS Institute is a cooperative research and education institution for security training and certification.
Qaissaunee was honored for his work implementing the New Jersey Cyber Aces Academy at Brookdale (NJCAAB), a hands-on cybersecurity training program at Brookdale, and for facilitating its replication in other states. He was presented with the award Dec. 16 at the SANS Cyber Defense Initiative (CDI) training event in Washington, D.C.
NJCAAB, the first of its kind in the nation, uses on-line and face-to-face competitions and interviews to recruit talented students. Selected students train at the Cyber Aces Academy for hands-on careers in cybersecurity. The program is a collaboration between Counter Hack Challenges, the SANS Institute, the Cyber Aces Foundation, Brookdale and the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education. The first cohort of 12 students is expected to complete training by the end of the summer and begin residency programs with government agencies and businesses in Fall 2014.
“School training in the last few years has been very theoretical,” Qaissaunee said. “We are creating a program that trains people as doers. The different is the heavy focus on hands-on applications.”
By shifting the training of the cybersecurity workforce to the community college and focusing on hands-on skills, cybersecurity workers get out of the training pipeline faster and begin the job of protecting the country sooner. NJCAAB has become a national model, with at least six states replicating the program and 20 more expected to do so.
“I think the goal of what we’re trying to do is very noble,” Qaissaunee said. When you think about the importance of what we’re doing to secure the government, businesses and the country, it’s humbling and exciting to be a part of that.”