Thomas Nelson Community College has "been at the forefront of cybersecurity for years now," according to Steve Foster, cybersecurity/unmanned systems (UMS) project director for the College.
That will continue to be the case as Thomas Nelson and Peregrine Technical Solutions have joined forces for an apprenticeship in cybersecurity that has been approved by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.
Foster (back row center) is pictured with Thomas Nelson Business, Public Services, Information Systems & Mathematics Dean Chuck Swaim, Academic Affairs Vice President Susan English, Mechanical Engineering Faculty Julie Young, Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Apprenticeship Consultant Delores Ferrell, Peregrine Technical Solutions President Leigh Armistead and Thomas Nelson President John Dever.
“This is the first attempt. I don’t believe there’s any college in the country that has a UMS apprenticeship program and certainly not a UMS that’s tied to cybersecurity,” said Foster, who is also an adjunct instructor. “You get two [certifications] in this. You get a UMS cert, and you get a basic cybersecurity cert. I can guarantee nobody in the country is doing that.”
Based in Yorktown, Peregrine will sponsor the apprenticeship covering all course costs at Thomas Nelson along with paying a competitive wage and all certification fees. The program is designed to take three semesters with apprentices taking one cybersecurity course and one UMS course each semester. Classes will be a combination of hands-on learning and classroom instructions.
Thomas Nelson will provide courses to support the program, which was inspired by a cybersecurity conference the College hosts each year. Peregrine President Leigh Armistead met Foster at a recent conference during lunch and the two began talking.
“[Armistead] was looking to develop an apprenticeship program in UMS. So were we,” Foster said. “So it was a meeting of the minds, so to speak.”
However, Foster wanted to take it a step further.
“I said to Leigh, 'if we’re going to have a UMS apprenticeship, I want to pair up cybersecurity with this program,'” Foster said. “You can’t fly a drone and not be concerned about cybersecurity because you have to be just as concerned about somebody hacking into the drone links. Cybersecurity makes sense to go along with UMS.”
During a recent signing ceremony to announce the partnership, Armistead said apprenticeships such as this have to be led by the employer, and he also encouraged other employers to use apprenticeships.
Thomas Nelson President John Dever said teamwork such as this is tough to beat.
“When you combine work-based learning and academic learning with employer support, it’s powerful,” Dever said.
And, according to Foster, it’s another way Thomas Nelson is making its mark on the Peninsula and beyond.
“What we are doing is building pathways for students,” he said. “It’s demonstrating to the Hampton Roads community and the Hampton Roads industry that we’re continuing to build our programs to meet the needs of the workforce."
"We not only have great programs, but we’re going to help you find pathways for jobs. Isn’t that, in the end, what it’s all about?," he added.