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ODU Receives $1.45 Million State Grant Aimed at Boosting Cybersecurity Workforce

By Harry Minium

Old Dominion University has received a $1.45 million Growth and Opportunity for Virginia (GO Virginia) grant, which is expected to fill 1,300 new cybersecurity jobs in Virginia within five years, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday.

The Old Dominion University School of Cybersecurity will oversee implementation of the grant, which will create a program to provide those who work for Virginia defense contractors with Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification.

The program will train cybersecurity experts in the latest Department of Defense cybersecurity requirements.

ODU will offer six new courses and plans to enroll more than 500 students. All courses will be offered online.

"Building on our strengths in delivering high-quality online cybersecurity coursework will help to meet the demand for these careers," said Brian Payne, vice provost for academic affairs.

After students complete the certification program, their credits can go toward a master's degree at Old Dominion, said Hongyi "Michael" Wu, Batten Chair of Cybersecurity and director of the School of Cybersecurity.

The program will become self-sustaining - funded by tuition - within three years, he said. By 2026, it is expected to have generated an estimated $12.6 million in state tax revenue by creating new jobs.

ODU's School of Cybersecurity is one of the nation's fastest growing. ODU enrolled just 11 students in its first cybersecurity classes in 2015 and will have more than 900 this fall, Wu said. ODU offers two undergraduate majors and one master's degree in cybersecurity.

"We appreciate GO Virginia's support as Old Dominion continues to expand opportunities in a critically important area both for the commonwealth and the nation," ODU President John R. Broderick said.

The need for cybersecurity experts is outstripping the supply, Wu said.

"Clearly, in Virginia, much more talent is needed to fill the 58,000 cybersecurity job openings each year, as well as to meet enhanced DoD compliance requirements," he said.

"The basic idea of this program is to train people, especially veterans," about enhanced cybersecurity requirements, Wu added. "Our goal is to make sure that whenever they are involved in a program, especially a federal project or a Department of Defense project, that their cybersecurity is compliant."

Wu said the courses will be taught by "working professionals, some with many years of experience in that area."

The project, he said, has received commitments of $2.9 million in cash and in-kind support from more than 40 statewide organizations, including pledges to provide 27,000 staff hours and deliver 120 webinars for veteran outreach.

GO Virginia is a state-funded initiative administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which aims to strengthen and diversify Virginia's economy and foster creation of higher-wage jobs in strategic industries.

The GO Virginia grant was the largest of 20 announced Thursday by Northam worth a combined $11.1 million.

"The targeted support that GO Virginia provides is critical to ensuring communities across our commonwealth are well positioned to succeed in a post-pandemic economy," Northam said.

"These projects demonstrate how regional collaboration can drive innovation and deliver positive economic results, including diversifying our workforce, supporting entrepreneurs and upgrading our infrastructure."

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