Oklahoma College Program Placing Emphasis on Aerospace, Cybersecurity

By Kathryn McNutt for Journal Record

Construction of the Tanenbaum Aerospace and Cybersecurity Center on the Rose State College campus is well underway, with the opening scheduled for fall. The former Professional Training Center is being transformed to prepare students for two of the most in-demand careers in Oklahoma and nationally.

Some of the world’s most successful aerospace companies operate in Oklahoma, employing more than 120,000 Oklahomans in the aerospace and defense industries.

The Oklahoma Department of Commerce reports more than 1,100 aerospace entities operate in the state, including manufacturers; maintenance, repair and operations businesses; research and development firms; and military facilities.

Last month, RSC co-hosted the Commerce Department’s Aerospace Commerce Economic Services Career Fair with 17 aerospace employers – including Tinker Air Force Base, Boring, Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. – and more than 800 job-seekers in attendance.

The cybersecurity field also is booming. As of August, there were more than 700,000 open roles in cybersecurity in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for information security analysts are expected to grow 35% by 2031 with 19,500 openings each year.

Rose State continues to develop specialized cybersecurity training in cooperation with industry partners and recently was recognized by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education for its partnership with Delaware Resource Group, a leading global aerospace defense contractor based in Oklahoma City.

The DRG partnership began when the company approached the college with time-sensitive Department of Defense cybersecurity requirement needs. RSC tailored curriculum for DRG specialists whose positions were at risk if they failed to meet the timeline for baseline IT certification. The initiative opened the door for continuing education, micro-credentialing and other industry-related cyber certifications.

In December, RSC announced its new associate in science degree in data science and analytics to help meet the widen gap for one of the fastest-growing professions in the nation. Oklahoma industries such as aerospace, energy, government, health care, engineering and utilities offer high-wage jobs to data scientists, Rose State President Jeanie Webb noted.

“As the demand for data scientists grows in our state, we want to equip our students with the resources and training needed to compete in this exciting profession,” Webb said. “This program is the first of its kind at Rose State and shows our commitment to providing education that reflects Oklahoma’s evolving landscape.”

Designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, RSC continuously updates its curriculum to offer techniques that prepare students for careers that are high in demand.

“If we’re not using the correct tools, they won’t have a clue when they get to the real world,” said Ken Dewey, director of the cybersecurity program.

“We really drive home (to students) what job are you going to have at the end of this,” said Whitney Alvis, senior director of workforce development and the Center of Workforce Excellence in Aerospace and Cybersecurity.

Alvis said every credit counts toward an associate degree program at Rose State as well as a four-year degree at one of the many universities with which the college has articulation agreements.

“The workforce in Oklahoma needs it and the students deserve it,” she said.

The Tanenbaum Aerospace and Cybersecurity Center – named for Richard and Glenna Tanenbaum, who donated $1.3 million – will provide students state-of-the-art equipment to master skills before entering the workforce, Alvis said.

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