Fortinet Network Security Academy Series: Perspectives on Addressing Cybersecurity Skills Gap from Educational Leaders: Interview with Opo Herrera, Associate Director for Social Ventures & Innovation at Per Scholas
Interview with Opo Herrera, Associate Director for Social Ventures & Innovation at Per Scholas
Tell us a bit about Per Scholas and the type of courses that drive the greatest student engagement?
Per Scholas is a national nonprofit that provides rigorous and tuition-free technology training and professional development to people who are unemployed or in low-wage jobs. We help people launch successful and life-changing careers in technology by creating onramps to businesses in need of their talents. Today, we provide our solutions in six cities across the country: Atlanta, GA; Cincinnati and Columbus, OH; Dallas, TX; the National Capital Region; and New York, NY.
We collaborate with businesses, like Fortinet, to design industry- and job-specific courses based on employer’s IT needs. We teach technology skills training and professional development, tailored to business needs, to highly motivated students from frequently overlooked talent pools. We then match talented graduates to employers, while providing career support throughout the process.
Our courses are engaging because we mix technical skills with essential soft skills in a hands-on learning environment where interaction with industry professionals occurs often.
What do you do to ensure that your non-profit institution incorporates the most relevant, impactful courses to educate and prepare students for 21st century careers?
Our approach to creating training programs is to reverse engineer curricula that are required to be successful in jobs that are in high-demand by employers. We add new trainings every year based on industry needs, and we constantly tweak our existing trainings based on employer feedback, requested core competencies assessed through reviewing hundreds of open job postings, and ongoing industry trends. We then craft our content into digestible formats and leverage a learning management system to ensure that class time is not one-way lectures, but instead, hands-on activities that simulate troubleshooting and managing networks, data, and security protocols.
All of our IT trainings across a variety of occupations share this basic formula.
In your opinion, why is preparing the students of today with skills on cybersecurity technology an educational imperative?
Almost every company, organization, and government - big or small - is working with data, payment systems, and sensitive information. With vendors and third parties there are constant data transfers, which means there are infinite ways for data and security to be compromised. We know from our students’ employers that cyberdefense workers need to be experienced and often trained on the job. And there are simply not enough experienced individuals in the labor market. Technology hiring managers and CISOs, across a variety of sectors, recognize the need to create pipelines and training programs now if they are to have enough talent to fill open cybersecurity positions in the near future.
Why did you choose to partner with Fortinet to build out courses based on network security technology?
Fortinet is a strong security industry leader, and a particularly strong player in the financial industry. Our students are excited to learn about specific products and protocols, and can leverage the training experience into tangible skills that are marketable to employers.
How have students reacted to the Fortinet Network Security Academy coursework?
We are launching a Fortinet Academy course this summer, and the response from our class registrants has been very positive. They recognize that product and domain knowledge is important, and that they will receive high-quality training and insight into and from a market leader. The course is designed to provide hands-on labs to simulate network and data security issues, and allows students to work in real time on solutions in a sandbox environment. We are excited to continue to build out curriculum and work directly with leading businesses like Fortinet to constantly improve the training we deliver and its relevance to our students.