The top 15 percent of participants were then invited to compete in an all-day challenge, created by NetWars, the system used by the U.S. Military, U.S. Government agencies and many commercial companies to evaluate and train their employees.
An awards ceremony followed, where Herrell, an Information Systems major at Mercer, was recognized as the eighth place finalist out of the top ten. He and the other top performers will be invited to enroll in the New Jersey CyberCenter at Brookdale, where they will be immersed in intensive cybersecurity curriculum comprised of a combination of college courses and SANS Institute training. The goal is to place these individuals in cybersecurity jobs upon completion of the certification program.
The CyberCenter is funded through a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant.
“The New Jersey CyberCenter/Brookdale model is designed to transform the cyberskills pipeline just as a similar program early in World War II did for aviator training,” said SANS Institute Director of Research Alan Paller. “Cyber skills are as important to the protection of the nation today as aviation skills were during World War II.”
Herrell’s instructor, Pecci, has been teaching as an adjunct instructor in MCCC's Network Engineering Technologies program for eight years. He uses his cybersecurity class to show students how to defend computer networks against hacker attacks, and how to leverage technologies, such as Cisco firewalls, to protect the confidentiality of personal and private data on computer networks.
“Our classes provide students with real-world knowledge of business and industry best practices for securing public and private computer networks against attack,” said Pecci, adding that when he started teaching about cybersecurity four years ago it was barely on the radar of the media, and corporate awareness of cybersecurity threats was still evolving.
“With recurring high profile breaches of personal data, companies are now racing to fill cybersecurity positions and are finding there is a shortage of qualified professionals,” Pecci said. "Thomas is a bright student with a great talent in this field. Education is about self-discovery, and Mercer is here to provide the foundation that enables students to learn, achieve, and succeed. I'm sure Thomas will go far in whatever he chooses to do.”
According to MCCC's Information Technology Program Coordinator Jeff Weichert, Mercer is expecting to see an increase in enrollment for cybersecurity courses at the college. "The need for highly skilled network administrators is expected to continue growing over the coming years, and Mercer is well positioned to train our students in all facets of cybersecurity defense."
For more information about course offerings in networking and cybersecurity at MCCC, email firstname.lastname@example.org.