RALEIGH – Wake Tech has a renowned Cybersecurity program, designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency through 2025.
It’s the second-largest program at the community college, according to Dr. Scott Ralls, President of Wake Tech.
But, like many organizations right now, the program is held back by a talent shortage.
“I think it would be our first if we could have more cyber instructors,” said Dr. Ralls. “That’s the biggest challenge for us.”
Dr. Ralls spoke about the instructor shortage on stage at the NC TECH State of Technology Conference earlier this week. As he spoke about the instructor gap, a QR code with a link to Wake Tech’s adjunct faculty page appeared on the screen behind him.
“If anybody wants to teach adjunct at Wake Tech in IT right now, there it is, hit that QR code,” Dr. Ralls told the audience. “Because that’s the limit right now, for what we can do, is having faculty, particularly adjunct faculty.”
Wake Tech is the largest community college system in NC, serving over 70,000 students annually across seven campuses and two training centers.
Critical rural need for cybersecurity talent
Dr. Ralls spoke alongside Dr. Pamela Gibson Senegal, President of Piedmont Community College (PCC). The fireside chat was facilitated by President and CEO of NC TECH, Brooks Raiford.
Dr. Senegal also talked about cybersecurity, referencing PCC’s partnership with Fayetteville Tech, which supports instructors who are exiting military careers and building on military-grade cyber defense credentials.
“What Fayetteville Tech has been able to do is really accumulate a group of cybersecurity instructors, and, as a spoke institution, like Piedmont Community College will be, it enables us to have access to instructors and knowledge that we wouldn’t necessarily have locally,” said Dr. Senegal.
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She also referenced the critical need for cybersecurity talent in rural communities, citing recent ransomware attaches against small municipalities that, she said, are considered “soft targets”.
“We have employers who are screaming for this need, among our county government, among our public schools, among our city officials,” said Dr. Senegal. “The need to have cybersecurity talent within our rural community is just stunning.”
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According to Dr. Ralls, IT programs at Wake Tech served almost 5,400 students last semester, with high numbers of women, veterans, and African-American students.
“We’re more diverse for our IT programs than the county is, in terms of population,” said Dr. Ralls.
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He also described the community college’s mission of helping students get “through” Wake Tech, describing Wake Tech as a “ladder college” that can help students move on to opportunities at the region’s four-year colleges and universities.
“This region has thrived by higher tech being a magnet for people from all over the country to come our area’s higher ed,” said Dr. Ralls. “But what we struggle here is for people to move up into some of those same roles from some of our neighborhoods here in our own region.”
“So we want students to be able to start wherever they are, and go as high as the ladder can go,” said Dr. Ralls, “and in this region, it’s a very tall ladder.”
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