Mon, May 20, 2024

USCA gets financial boost to help cyber students

USCA has received money from a veteran-owned cybersecurity firm that will fund scholarships for students seeking a career in cybersecurity and computer science.

SteelGate, LLC, a Virginia-based company with an office in Augusta, has donated $25,000 to USCA. The SteelGate Cyber Scholarships will be used to provide $1,000 scholarships to high school students in the Aiken-Augusta area.

“We contacted about 15 to 18 high schools in the region. And there’s a competitive scholarship for each school, one to two scholarships,” Dr. Scott McKay, Dean of Sciences and Engineering, explained for ABD. “They put in very basic information, their GPA, what their career goal is, what area, whether software engineering, AI, cybersecurity, and data science.”

According to its website, SteelGate was established in 2019 with a mission to “Build an organization that attracts & retains the most talented professionals to solve the most complex problems around Cyber operations, Distributed Command and Control, AI/ML/Data Science, Information Operations, C4IT Systems & C5ISR.”

The company currently supports clients in 12 states and 18 countries.

McKay said USCA is an NSA-designated Center of Excellence for cyber defense. This partnership with SteelGate has become part of the university’s network that includes the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense (DOD). The university’s Career Services will also collaborate with the company to set up internships and capstones, also known as senior designs.

“I’m sure you’re well aware of a very large gap in the workforce. In cybersecurity, especially, but also the computer sciences in general. The need for IT, cyber, and computer science professionals is expected to continue to grow at a rate much faster than the national average, 15 to 30%, well past 2030,” he explained. “So, this partnership is to help the pipeline. And you know, the more we can get students from our region to come here to school in our region, the more likely they are to help serve the industry and DOE and DOD facilities in our region.”

McKay said he always refers to the Central Savannah region, not just Aiken County. He said the region is becoming a hub for cyber security for, not just the Southeast, but for all the eastern U.S.

Dr. Scott McKay, Dean of Sciences and Engineering

“We think it’s particularly important for us as we’re a regional university. One of the pillars of service for a regional university is economic development and workforce development,” he said. So, in these very highly skilled training areas, we feel it’s one of our obligations as a regional university to add to that workforce development.”

McKay said targeting high school students with this program opens another door, raising interest in elementary school students. USCA is already reaching out to the younger students.

“We have the Ruth Patrick Science Center that has K-through-12 cyber specialists. Some of these kids are in seventh grade, they’re already doing Python (a popular programming language) and all sorts of stuff. So, you know, we’re very hopeful in the future that we’ll be producing a lot of these kids.”

McKay hopes providing educational and employment opportunities will encourage the best and brightest students to stay in the Aiken-Augusta region when they enter the workforce.

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