Community collegesCommunity colleges invest in homeland security education

Published 8 December 2011

Since 9/11 community colleges have played an increased role in providing job training to those seeking careers in homeland security, intelligence, and disaster response

Since 9/11 community colleges have played an increased role in providing job training to those seeking careers in homeland security, intelligence, and disaster response.

To highlight its efforts to expand course offerings that train students for jobs in homeland security and the intelligence community, the Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, Virginia recently hostedan intelligence and homeland security summit.

The event was moderated by Robert Zitz, a former Deputy Undersecretary of national programs and protection at the Department of Homeland Security. In August Zitz was named senior vice president and chief systems architect of SAIC’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group.

“It will provide a nuanced look at what the agencies do and how they do it, and the career and business opportunities they offer. That will be followed by breakout sessions on the intelligence community, the Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement and information technology,” said Zitz prior to the event.

“At DHS, there are so many job opportunities in so many fields,” said panelist Cedric J. Sims, a senior executive in DHS’ Office of the Chief Information Officer who has overseen $6.8 billion in IT investments across DHS. “Come to government service,” he urged the crowd.

“You really can change the world,” added Al League, a partner at the intelligence and defense information technology firm TransVoyant and the former senior technical advisor to the Mission Support Directorate at the National Reconnaissance Office. “You can influence people—help senior leaders and decision-makers do the right thing.”

The school already offers a number of IT courses and certifications that could be useful for a career in homeland security, but hopes that the summit will spur additional course offerings according to Jeanne Wesley, vice president for workforce and community relations at Germanna.
Germanna is not the only school looking to expand its homeland security course offerings, the explosion of growth in homeland security-related fields has driven schools across the country to invest significant resources in new facilities and programs.

The College of DuPage, located in suburban Chicago, recently opened a $25 million, 61,100 square-foot Homeland Security Education Center, which will train students in various homeland security-related fields including terrorism methodology, cyberterrorism, bioterrorism, hazardous materials training, and urban response.

The Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security lists forty-two community colleges nationwide that offer degrees or certificates in Homeland Security, Emergency Management, Emergency Preparedness, Terrorism, or Cyber Security.

The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) also partners with forty-six community colleges nationwide as part of its Associate’s Degree Program, which provides funding to TSA officers to obtain homeland security degrees.

Part of the reason that community colleges feel they are a natural fit for homeland security training is that first responders have long obtained their training at two-year schools.

A 2008 report by the National Commission on Community Colleges, which was established in early 2005 by College Board’s Center for Innovative Thought, foundthat 80 percent of first responders, including police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians received their certification from community colleges.  

“Community colleges have a great deal of capacity to provide training beyond the traditional first responders,” said John Perrone, director of Monroe Community College’s Homeland Security Management Institute in Rochester, New York. 

“Part of what we’re doing is the post-9/11 culture,” saidJoe Moore, associate vice president at DuPage. “Beyond that, at community colleges, we must scan our areas to find the best employment opportunities. Homeland security was identified by our college as a key source of jobs. It’s a growth area.”