LBCC Students Help Small Businesses Meet Cybersecurity Demands
A government contract presents a business with the opportunity for steady revenue and a chance to serve the country. But those contracts also come with reporting and evaluation requirements that many small businesses do not have the staff to meet. As a result, many government contracts go to larger firms like Boeing or Raytheon, leaving small businesses out of the picture.
A new program from the Department of Defense is bringing college students into the mix to help small businesses meet contract requirements while giving students valuable experience in cybersecurity. Long Beach City College (LBCC) is at the forefront of this effort and worked to obtain a grant from the California Advanced Supply Chain Analysis & Diversification Effort (CASCADE) to fund four students from July through October of this year.
Participating students Ashley Baker, Jason Hillman, Tyrel Park and Ted Pereira will perform approximately 96 hours each working for either Primo Energy or Global Aerospace Corporation.
Garret Whelan, Professor of Cybersecurity at LBCC, organized the program and said the help students provide small businesses is a critical first step toward becoming the Department of Defense cybersecurity contractors.
“The company we’re working with has six employees and can’t meet Department of Defense standards without some extra help,” Whelan said. “Our cybersecurity students are helping organizations get ready for that initial evaluation.”
Doing government work requires both subject matter expertise and professional organization and communication skills. The CASCADE grant required that students also receive instruction in business communications and related skills. Vincent Calip, Assistant Professor of Computer and Office Studies at LBCC, has been helping students with those skills.
“These students have a lot of knowledge in cyber and IT, but they are not used to dealing with clients or producing documents,” Calip said. “My part of it is to support them in those areas and help them understand the business aspect of this work.”
LBCC Workforce Development Director Melissa Infusino said programs like this also help bridge a critical equity gap that exists in IT-related internships by giving students the opportunity to gain experience without having to worry about making money.
“The cybersecurity field is sometimes a challenge for our students because of the experience required to obtain an entry-level job,” Infusino said. “These programs help level the playing field and address equity issues because students do not have to take unpaid internships to gain that experience.”
That benefit was a critical one for Jason Hillman, who is one of the four students participating in the CASCADE-funded program.
“As an older full-time student, I have to find ways of supporting myself while I attend school and do so in a way that allows me to remain a diligent and vigilant student,” Hillman said. I am able to advance my cybersecurity skill set and experience with content directly pertaining to my major without having to commit to the first entry-level position I can find just to get by.”
Hillman and his colleagues are working on helping their client meet the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. They researched certification requirements and posed questions to the company to determine which requirements they needed to meet. They’re also working on documenting existing procedures to prepare as part of CMMC certification.
This work has opened Hillman’s eyes to a new career path helping small businesses navigate these requirements.
“Security compliance and risk management is a massive undertaking that is ever-changing and is a field that is going to require a large number of skilled cybersecurity professionals for a long time to come,” Hillman said. “I hope to take what I have learned from this experience and see what more can be done to help small businesses and nonprofits who operate with limited budgets secure their businesses and comply with these complex security and compliance standards.”
This opportunity is made possible through the leadership of Business & Entrepreneurship Sector Statewide Director Chuck Eason and with support from Los Angeles Regional Director, Judy Fox.
For more information about LBCC’s Internship Program, contact Melissa Infusino at firstname.lastname@example.org.