Securing A Skilled Workforce In Greater Peoria

Securing a Skilled Workforce in Greater Peoria

This article was authored by Kate Carroll, Director of Workforce Solutions for the GPEDC. The article was originally published in the U.S. Department of Labor Blog.

In today’s technologically advanced world, insecure software has become a critical problem for successful businesses. As former CIA Director Leon Panetta said, “The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyber-attack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems.” The underlying cause of cyber security risk is poorly designed computer programming code. Improve the software, and you systemically improve security.

At the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, we’re developing the nation’s first Secure Software Apprenticeship Program, and working to join the Department of Labor’s growing list of registered apprenticeships. The goal is to not only improve the code and software available, but also provide a highly-trained workforce for the future of our region.

This effort began two years ago when Girish Seshagiri, vice president of ISHPI Information Technologies, identified the opportunity for Greater Peoria to become a center of excellence for secure software. Seshagiri established a coalition with Illinois Central College, local employers CEFCU and Illinois Mutual, and Carnegie Mellon University that allowed Illinois Central College to adopt Carnegie Mellon’s nationally recognized curriculum for a two-year associate degree program.

As they geared up for the start of the courses at Illinois Central College this past fall, the coalition decided it was critical to identify a local organization that would be the official program sponsor and approached the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.

Over the past five months, the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council’s Center of Excellence for Secure Software Steering Committee has received overwhelming support from regional employers and interest from local students. Our first cohort consists of 11 students and 6 committed employers. During the fall semester, students took four courses in software development with each course including training on secure coding techniques.

To celebrate the students’ success, we held a signing event on Dec. 7 where apprentices and employers were formally paired up. Starting in January, the students will begin working with employers to gain experiential learning and apply what they’ve learned in the classroom with additional mentorship training in the Carnegie Mellon Univeristy Personal Software Process used by Seshagiri’s team. Members of the Department of Labor, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, Illinois Central College and the steering committee, as well as participating employers, apprentices and family members attended the celebration.

The Greater Peoria community is passionate about developing and retaining a talented workforce. The apprenticeship program will develop local talent for local employers. The availability of a highly trained workforce will provide an incentive for new companies to consider moving to Greater Peoria. This coalition is the perfect foundation to help grow our region economically, while improving the quality of programming code to improve our nation’s cyber-security.