You’ve heard our expression from here, go anywhere? Ursula Jones is anywhere – i.e., Juneau, Alaska, to be exact. She’s also a Tidewater Community College student who is the first cyber security apprentice in the state of Virginia.
“Apprenticeship is not impossible, even if you live in Timbuktu,” quipped Jones, a Juneau native who works as a cyber security analyst II at Peregrine Technical Solutions LLC, a company based in Yorktown that has employees in every state. “People need to start thinking more outside the box.”
Apprenticeship, an “earn-while-you-learn” approach to education, isn’t just ideal for candidates straight out of high school or in their 20s. After 23 years in federal service, Jones decided she needed a more stimulating job, but she wasn’t excited about racking up student loan debt.
Apprenticeship made the most sense.
As an apprentice, she doesn’t need to worry about debt; in fact, she earns a salary and benefits. Plus, the company foots the bill for her to complete classes online for TCC’s Career Studies Certificate in Cyber Security.
TCC is a National Security Agency Center of Academic Excellence, as designated by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The designation recognizes the college as a national model in cyber security. Students who earn the cyber security certificate can apply their credits toward an Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology.
Partnering with the college to create a cyber apprenticeship is an investment in his own workforce, said Peregrine President, Leigh Armistead.
“The task is to assure the confidentially, integrity and availability of information technology assets,” he said. “The apprentice must train and continue to be on top of their game because their adversaries are constantly improving and will be sure to be on top of theirs.”
It’s just the type of challenge Jones wanted. “Changing professions mid-career was a leap of faith and, I have to admit, it made me a little nervous.,” she said. “Leaving a secure career and moving into information technology had its risks, but the rewards have made the career change worth it.”
Cyber security is a booming field with a global shortage of two million cyber security professionals predicted for 2019, according to ISACA, a nonprofit information security advocacy group.
“It is great to have a mid-career candidate as Ursula is unusually efficient due to her ‘can-do’ attitude,” said Armistead, also a member of the TCC Workforce Advisory Board. “She efficiently solves problems, a capability that is at the core of her success.”
Before Jones completes the apprenticeship, ideally in May, she will have completed multiple information technology certifications – each of which will advance her in pay scale.
“No matter what lies ahead, I couldn’t have felt better about my decision to leave federal service and work for Peregrine,” she said.
Contact TCC’s Karen Miller to explore apprenticeship opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org.