Ivy Tech helps fill manufacturers’ growing need for cyber security grads

September 13th, 2017

By Kylie Veleta | Inside INdiana Business

While the mechanics of manufacturing may be obvious on the production floor, the “wired” nature of Indiana factories is less visible. From robotics to inventory management, manufacturing facilities are highly automated, underscoring the need to protect massive amounts of digital information. While the state’s four-year universities have cyber security programs, a Hoosier manufacturer also praises the unique niche Ivy Tech Community College fills by producing a tech-savvy work force with close ties to Indiana communities.

“We value [Ivy Tech’s cyber security program], in particular, because these are local students with roots here in southern Indiana; we don’t have to recruit a lot of folks from the West or East coasts and convince them to move to Indiana,” says Cummins Inc. Executive Director and Chief Information Security Officer Bill Russell. “These are employees who are already here and have family and roots here.”

Columbus-based Cummins notes the caliber of Ivy Tech’s cyber security program also sets it apart; the school recently earned its five-year recertification as a Center of Academic Excellence for two-year colleges; the National Security Agency and the Department for Homeland Security award the designations.

“To put that into perspective, there are more than 1,600 two-year colleges in the U.S., and less than 50 have the designation,” says Ivy Tech Vice President of Information Technology for Workforce Alignment Matthew Etchison. “And there are only three higher education institutions in Indiana with this designation: Indiana University, Purdue University and Ivy Tech.”

Etchison says enrollment has increased each year in cyber security at Ivy Tech, which is one of nine IT programs offered at the school. It began at the Columbus campus in 2008, but was redesigned in 2014 as Cyber Security/Information Assurance and is now offered at most of Ivy Tech’s statewide campuses, including Fort Wayne. Students can earn a list of industry certifications and an associate’s degree, which will also transfer to several Indiana public and private institutions.

“Cyber security is red hot right now,” says Etchison. “We’re at the point now where everything from one’s doorbell to thermostat to fridge and Crockpot are connected to the Internet—and not always with the best security protocols.”

And the stakes are, obviously, much higher for large commercial operations. Etchison says Indiana manufacturers are realizing data breaches could potentially cost billions of dollars in lost revenue or consumer confidence. Cummins created Russell’s position as chief information security officer just two years ago and has since grown his team from 12 to 40 people.

“So much of a factory is interconnected; robotics, automation, CNC machines and the entire supply chain and logistics process. Everything is on the network and all the data has to be secure at all times; there’s just too much at stake,” says Etchison. “One intrusion beyond the firewall by a hacker, rogue nation or the competition, and their mission critical R&D and trade secrets can go right out the door.”

Etchison notes the high level of technology in modern cars creates even more data and information that Indiana automakers must secure.

“As an example, an F-22 Raptor fighter plane has 1.7 million lines of code, but a new S-Class Mercedes Benz has 20 million lines of code,” says Etchison. “Elon Musk of Tesla recently said a Tesla [vehicle] is a sophisticated computer on wheels, and that Tesla is a software company just as much as it is a hardware company.”

In addition to the work of machines, Russell says protecting the work of the minds at Cummins is a primary function of his team.

“We build the finest diesel engines in the world, and the reason they’re the finest is because we’ve spent a great deal of money and effort in R&D and innovation,” says Russell. “Protecting that intellectual property—those designs and technologies—is critical.”

Russell serves on the Board of Advisors for Ivy Tech’s cyber security program to help guide the curriculum. Etchison says the school partners with other Hoosier manufacturers—as well as Silicon Valley and large IT companies—to continue producing graduates who want to stay close to home while working to secure companies utilizing the world wide web.

Categories & Tags 21st Century Talent