Green River College trains the next generation of cyber security experts

AUBURN, Wash. -- According to the FBI’S latest internet crime report, victims had more than $1.4 billion in losses as a result of internet crime. What is even more concerning is the lack of cyber security experts. That has many companies and even our federal government concerned.

Recent projections show that by 2020, employment in all computer occupations is expected to increase by 22%. Companies, governments even your own personal information rely on cyber security professionals on a daily basis.

That's why careers like this are on such high demand right now.

By now you've seen the headlines. From your e-mail getting hacked, to smart devices, even your credit report getting hacked.

With the internet, your information is constantly vulnerable. At Green River College in Auburn, they’re hoping to help train the next internet protectors.

“The big thing about cybersecurity is that nothing is secure,” said Alan Carter, Green River College’s Informational Technology program director.

Some students in the program, like Michael Kujawa, know that, too.

“I definitely feel responsibility to stop that from happening,” said Kujawa.

Kujawa has been all about computers ever since he was a kid. He hopes to one day work for Microsoft, he said. According to Kujawa, Green River’s program better prepares him for life after graduation.

“It’s best strength is just the vastly different amount of people going through the program. It gives you a lot of perspectives on how we take technology,” said Kujawa.

Students in the program can earn a bachelor's degree in network administration and security, or informational technology. The main difference between Green River and other traditional four-year universities is that it’s more hands-on, according to school officials.

“Companies are hiring people from other schools, and they’re having to train them to do tasks. And ours are able to hit the ground running and only need training on the advanced tasks,” said Carter.

Student Yazmin Salazar grew to love the program.

“It’s fun. It’s like learning something new and you get to deal with and see if it works. And if it does, it’s a great feeling,” she said. “When I first started the program, when I started learning about routing and switching, I actually came home and started messing with my own router.”

Along with Salazar’s internship at Weyerhauser, she said she hopes to someday protect her company from internet attacks.

“Hopefully transition into cyber security and kind of find ways to patch the holes and affect the company in a greater aspect,” she said.

Getting these students into the cybersecurity world is a priority for so many companies, even for the federal government. The program at Green River is one of a handful in our state certified by the National Security Agency, or NSA.

“You have to certify the whole school. We have to show that we’re teaching the cyber defense topics that they want, but that other departments are teaching that,” said Carter.

And without the right people, it can be expensive for companies. A recent study found that a cyber attacks on average costs companies close to $4 million. And with an estimated 3 million unfilled cyber security positions open, the job opportunities are here and now.

“What we do is go to industry and we ask for their input, and we work backwards from industry to design curriculum to match what their needs are,” said Kendrick Hang, Green River’s IT Technology and Software Development instructor.

According to Green River officials, the program has an 87% retention rate. Also 90% of graduates get a job within six months.

“They’re very well-prepared for the job market,” said Carter.

And that's a good thing. Because in this age of the internet, more experts are needed. No experience required.

“If you don’t know anything about computers, that’s ok. We’ll start with you on day one, and  take your forward from there,” said Hang.