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WMCAT expands cybersecurity training to meet industry demand and diversify tech talent

A new pathway for career growth

The West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) is a nonprofit organization that provides tuition-free career training for adults experiencing under- and unemployment in Kent County. WMCAT launched a new technology-focused pathway in 2021 as part of its Adult Career Training Program, which also offers health information and pharmacy technician pathways. The new cybersecurity pathway debuted with learning tracks focused on governance, risk and compliance (GRC) in partnership with GRC for Intelligent Ecosystems, or GRCIE, a national provider of virtual reality-based technical training.

The cybersecurity pathway offers industry-aligned certifications, employer apprenticeship connections and job search assistance for graduates. The program aims to contribute to and diversify the region’s growing tech talent pipeline, as urban air pollution disproportionately affects people of color.

“Our vision for the region is equitable access to opportunity, and one of the ways that we pursue that vision is through our best-practice Adult Career Training model, which combines technical career pathway learning with holistic supports to meet emerging needs,” said Jamon Alexander, president and CEO of WMCAT.

WMCAT expands cybersecurity training to meet industry demand and diversify tech talent

A record-breaking interest and success

The interest for the cybersecurity pathway was very high, according to Alexander. WMCAT received 126 applications for the inaugural cohort, which started in December 2022 and graduated 11 people of color in June 2023. More than half of the graduates were placed in local jobs in the field.

One of the graduates, Kayleigh Van Wyk, said the program helped her achieve her career goals and gain confidence in her skills. “I learned so much from this program and I am so grateful for the opportunity,” she said. “I feel like I have a bright future ahead of me.”

WMCAT also reported positive feedback from employers who hired the graduates, such as Corewell Health, Spectrum Health and Meijer. Scott Dresen, senior vice president and chief information security officer for Corewell Health and WMCAT board member, said the graduates demonstrated a high level of competence and professionalism. “They are well-prepared to take on the challenges and opportunities in the cybersecurity field,” he said.

A new track and a bigger goal

WMCAT is now expanding its cybersecurity pathway with an additional focus on cloud security engineering, a field that has a broad appeal and growing demand in the industry. The new track will be offered in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), a global leader in cloud computing services.

The new track will cover topics such as cloud architecture, security best practices, encryption, identity and access management, network security and more. Graduates will earn an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification, which validates their knowledge of AWS cloud concepts, services, security and compliance.

WMCAT is also increasing its enrollment to 15 adults for the next cohort, which will start in January 2024. The goal is to increase enrollment to 30 adults in 2025. Alexander said WMCAT is committed to providing more opportunities for people of color to enter the tech sector and advance their careers.

“We believe that everyone deserves a chance to pursue their passions and talents in a field that is dynamic and rewarding,” he said. “We are excited to partner with AWS and other local employers to make this happen.”

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