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RCTC, Mayo team up to train cyber security

August 10, 2018

In a world of increased hacking and data breaches, Rochester Community and Technical College has plans to roll out a program aimed at helping cybersecurity professionals stay ahead of these virtual attacks.

A collaborative effort between RCTC and Mayo Clinic, the program envisioned will at first be offered to 130 cybersecurity employees and technologists at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. But over time, the scope of the program will be expanded to include the clinic’s campuses in Jacksonville, Fla., and Arizona, as well as industries outside the health-care field.

“Because of the increased hacking and viruses out there — those are becoming very complex — so we have to stay ahead of it,” said Jennifer Wilson, RCTC’s director for business and workforce development. “It’s not just one-and-done training.”

Development of the program was made possible thanks to a $371,922 Minnesota Job Skills Partnership grant from the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Mayo and RCTC have been in discussions for about a year and half about what the need was and how to address it, Wilson said.

Health care is an inviting target for hackers. New technologies have powered improvements in health care and increase the success of outcomes. But the same technologies create vulnerabilities and invite cyberthreats.

And those threats are growing in size and scope. In the second quarter of 2017, more than a quarter of all observed cyberthreats were directed at health-care organizations, making it the industry with the single-highest volume of attacks.

Wilson said discussions between RCTC and Mayo were focused on ensuring that whatever they came up with, it wouldn’t duplicate programming already offered by Minnesota colleges. What they came up with was an eight-week certificate program that filled a training “gap” and was more hands-on and practical.

“It’s not just studying from a book, but it’s actually doing the problem-solving through case scenarios,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the program envisioned by RCTC builds on the programs offered by other Minnesota State Colleges schools.

Minnesota State College Southeast Technical teaches a two-year cybersecurity program. Mankato State offers a master’s program. What RCTC will offer will complement and enhance what’s offered at other Minnesota colleges.

Except for outside consultants, RCTC doesn’t intend to hire extra faculty for the program, but instead rely on faculty and expertise already employed through the Minnesota State Colleges system.

“We have through (Minnesota State Colleges), a lot of faculty that are trained in this area,” Wilson said.

Officials say it will take about a year to develop the curriculum before the program is made available to Mayo Clinic employees.

The program will have two components: an online part that students will take independently and then a virtual lab brings together students and instructor.

Eventually the plan is to offer the program to a wider array of industries, since none is immune to data breaches and hacking.

“What we found through other industries like manufacturing, education and others is that certification is becoming very very popular, because people want their information protected,” Wilson said.

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