Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc. of Carmel, Indiana, recently partnered with Philander Smith College in Little Rock to develop a curriculum for the school’s new cybersecurity program, which will award certifications and two-year and four-year degrees.
MISO is a regional transmission organization that operates high-voltage power lines in 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.
The program, launched last month, is the Workforce Innovation Strategic & Economic Public Private Partnership Program, or WISE P3. It is partially funded by an $851,271 Regional Workforce Implementation Grant from the Arkansas Department of Education.
“We provided the sweat equity and hope to help guide the process,” Lamar Davis, MISO’s executive director of government and regulatory affairs, said. “We’ve committed ... to being part of the advisory council. In that role, we’ll access the curriculum and make suggestions and participate where needed.”
He said it’s important for MISO to build a pipeline of cybersecurity expertise through partnerships like this because the interconnected nature of the electric grid makes it vulnerable to cyberattacks.
The first thing that needs to happen, Davis said, is exposing young people to cybersecurity careers. MISO is already doing that through a partnership with Forest Heights STEM Academy in Little Rock. The K-8 school’s teachers toured a MISO facility as part of their professional development, planning to fill in students on the cybersecurity jobs at MISO, he said.
MISO offered Philander Smith real-life examples to include in the coursework for WISE P3 students, Davis said, adding that these degrees and certificates will be coveted and marketable.
Philander Smith’s spokesperson did not return several calls from Arkansas Business, but President Roderick Smothers Sr. said in a news release, “The protection and security of our technology infrastructures are critical to our global economy. Through our WISE P3 workforce training program, we aim to train cyber warriors who will develop the necessary next-generation defenses. MISO’s partnership is crucial in helping Philander Smith establish a program that meets these industry needs on a broad scale.”