The Journal Record October 12, 2022 0
When Derrick Goldston, 50, of Newcastle was laid off in 2016 from his job as an emissions technician for MidCon, a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy, he wanted to find a new career that he could rely on.
“I wanted to have a career in a more stable environment,” Goldston said. “I was dabbling in computers around 1988 and 1989 before the internet, and I built my first computer in the early ‘90s. So, I had an interest in computers and thought cybersecurity would be cool.”
Goldston enrolled at the Cyber/Information Security Program at Oklahoma City Community College as one of many adult students transitioning from other careers to the fields of computer science and cybersecurity.
At Rose State College, the Business & Information Technology Division offers 10 courses specifically for cybersecurity at its Center for Cyber Security Education. The college is also one of a handful of educational institutions named a Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Charles DeSassure, Rose State College dean of business and information technology, said though the field attracts students straight out of high school, more and more older students are taking the courses.
“At a community college, we have traditional students and nontraditional students, but we also see a lot of students coming from the military. We have an excellent relationship with Tinker Air Force Base, and our students get internships over there all the time,” DeSassure said.
With age comes experience, said DeSassure, an asset in the field of cybersecurity. “There’s certain skill sets that mature individuals may already have. You have to have patience. And we have many adults who want to make a different change in their lifestyle and increase their salary potential.”
Because of the high demand for trained cybersecurity professionals, the job market for older adults is positive. “There is a higher possibility that once you finish a program, you’re going to get employed,” DeSassure said.
Curtis Coleman was courted to develop the cybersecurity education program at Oklahoma Christian University in 2017. A former vice president and chief security officer for a major technology company, Coleman was transitioning into retirement when the opportunity to develop the program arose.
“The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there is over 30% growth in cybersecurity jobs from 2019 up until 2029, and because cybercrime is growing so much, there is tremendous growth in that field,” he said. “With that growth will be people who are transferring or are transitioning from the career path they are doing now to cybersecurity because cybersecurity has got a broad range of different kinds of jobs.”
OCU’s Cybersecurity Education Center, also a Center of Academic Excellence, has both undergraduate and graduate tracks, and many of the older students are transitioning or enhancing their careers from other industries.
“Of course we see a lot of students who are already working in IT wanting to enhance their skills, but I’ve also had interest from nurses, teachers, the airlines and more,” he said. “Once you start talking about how doable it is, people realize they can do this too. For those students who have no experience in IT, we have programs to get them up to speed.”
Oklahoma City Community College’s Cyber and Information Security associate degree program also attracts older students, like Goldston. Though the program has both traditional and nontraditional students, professor Jon McHenry said he noticed the trend of older students learning IT after the 2008 recession.
“There are several factors involved in why students are choosing cybersecurity as a career. The most obvious, of course, is that it pays well and offers lots of room for advancement,” said McHenry. “The main challenge (to older students) is the technology itself. Many of these older students grew up using technology with significantly less capabilities than we have now.”
Older students do have advantages in the field, however, mainly having experience and work history in other fields. “Many skills are transferable, so they would bring those skills with them into the cybersecurity field,” said McHenry.
For Goldston, re-learning studying skills and the “new” math required to graduate from high school has slowed him down a bit. “Another challenge is the lack of the ability to quickly think outside of the box like the younger traditional gamer students,” he said. “It truly is a challenge to return to school to achieve a bachelor’s degree. Perhaps it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done. Many of the professors were at least a decade younger than me; therefore our environment that we grew up in was vastly different.”
McHenry said that those feeling sheepish about getting involved in a technology field due to perceived difficulty should know that learning technology is not like it was years ago. “The Information Age has provided many more ways to find, learn and interact with information,” he said.
Tagged with: Oklahoma Christian University Oklahoma City Community College Rose State College
December 21, 2022
December 21, 2022
December 21, 2022
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