FARMINGTON — With the second edition of San Juan College’s cyber security conference approaching, Lorenzo Reyes Jr., the director of the college’s Center for Workforce Development, already has some lofty ideas in mind for the how the event can lead to much greater things in the future.
“Our goal is to make sure this is not a one- or two-year conference, but becomes an annual conference and make it grow,” he said.
Reyes said anyone who uses the Internet on a regular basis will find something useful at the conference, especially in terms of learning how to keep their personal or sensitive information safe from hackers, and he encourages anyone who fits that description to attend.
But he also hopes it attracts people who are looking for career opportunities in the field of information technology, and he envisions the conference becoming a centerpiece of the college’s long-term goal of becoming a regional center of excellence in the cyber security field.
Reyes believes the local economy, at the mercy of fluctuations in the energy sector that it relies on so heavily, could be diversified and strengthened by the development of a prominent cyber security program at the college.
“There are approximately 200,000 jobs available in IT in America right now,” he said. “And it is projected that by 2025, there will be 1.5 million jobs available in IT, with a high percentage of those in the field of cyber security.”
Reyes wants to see San Juan College become the regional leader in helping meet those needs, and he thinks CyberCon 2.0 Four Corners, which takes place Thursday and Friday at the school, is the first step in making that happen.
“It is here to stay,” Reyes said of the conference and the school’s commitment to building such a program. “If we do it right and have the support of the community and attract high-quality students to our programs, we could transform the region.”
Last year’s inaugural cybercon got things off to a good start, he said. Approximately 120 people took part over two days, and Reyes is optimistic that number will increase this year.
He was especially pleased with the way the local business community responded to last year’s conference, ponying up sponsorship funds that allowed the college to keep the cost of attendance low. Even better, he said, this year’s event is free.
The first day of this year’s cybercon has been designated Business and Industry Professionals Day with Richard Hammer, a research and development scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a senior cyber security engineer, serving as the keynote speaker. The topics to be covered that day include identity protection, ransomware, DEFCON hacking, critical infrastructure protection and education in cyber security.
The final day has been designated Youth and Family Day. Hands-on activities will be offered for middle and high school students, and their families, while speakers will address such topics as cyberbullying, careers in cyber security and nanotechnology. There also will be a cyber patriot competition.
Reyes said the long-term support of the local business community will be an important element in helping establish the college as a cyber security leader.
“Businesses in the community are critical for us to achieve this goal,” he said. “They need to supply internships and work experience for our students.”
Of course, local school districts also will need to encourage their students to explore career options in cyber security, he said, and the college is working with representatives of districts throughout the county to arrange transportation for students for this week’s conference.
The college also has received a grant to stage two cyber security camps for elementary, middle school and high school students this summer. Each camp will last five days, with the first one taking place the last week in June and the second being held in the second week in July. A total of 90 students will be accepted between the two camps, and Reyes hopes to have students from every district in the county attend.
All expenses will be covered by the grant. Students can begin applying for admission to the camps at this week’s conference.
Mike Easterling covers education, health and the environment for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.
If you go
What: CyberCon 2.0 Four Corners
When: 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday
Where: San Juan College, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington
Admission: Free, but participants must register at Eventbrite.com, as seating is limited.
For more information: Call 505-566-3804
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