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Keith Kelly, tccodes and tccyber program manager, instructs a workshop for software developers at 20Fathoms.

TRAVERSE CITY — Technology is always changing and adapting.

So is the need to protect it.

20Fathoms is launching a cybersecurity certification program in partnership with the Cisco Networking Academy. The 14-week program begins Feb. 3.

The CyberOps Associate Program will be led by Cyndi Millns, who became a full-time resident of Suttons Bay in October. Millns teaches cybersecurity, business and information technology classes at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor.

Millns said cybersecurity “is one of the fastest growing area for jobs right now.” She said the demand will increase over time, especially as more businesses increased operations outside of normal conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said that though many reports of breeches are in the news, there are likely more that go unreported.

“As we continue to connect devices and as we continue to have more people working remotely, we need to train a workforce to be able to protect the data that companies are using and collecting,” Millns said. “Businesses are also relying more on technology to be successful and the information and systems collected to it.”

The CyberOps Associate Program aims to build on programming 20Fathoms has facilitated since tccodes launched in September 2019 and tccyber in September 2020.

“In the high-tech professions, there is constant professional development and learning,” said Keith Kelly, program manager for tccodes and tccyber at 20Fathoms.

Kelly said tccodes began with a Michigan Industry Cluster Approach grant to support a 22-month software development project. The CyberOps Associate Program is funded by a MICA 2.0 grant from the Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, which makes it free for participants.

“We’re going to take it to the next level,” Kelly said of the new program.

But while a lot of previous programming at 20Fathoms featured one-off or self-guided courses, the CyberOps Associate is more structured and requires a little more of a commitment from participants.

“It’s a deeper experience for participants,” said Keri Amlotte, 20Fathoms Director of Marketing.

Millns said the cybersecurity class will deliver instruction every other Wednesday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. There will also be optional, but recommended work-group meetings and other programming.

Millns said these community lab sessions will provide additional information and support for the entire course.

“Cisco Networking Academy is the curriculum provider,” said Millns, who has worked at Washtenaw CC for 2½ years and before that at Pinkney High School. “I’ve been working with Cisco curriculum for the last 12-13 years. The content is a great foundation so that I’m able to deliver the curriculum, utilize resources and building skills. I’t also allows me to add my own touches.”

Millns said the course will emphasize the protective side to cybersecurity, also known as blue team.

“It’s all things defensive,” Millns said. “How do we protect networks and look at access coming into networks and identify problems or situations that are not right.”

But she said part of being defensive is “looking at network from a bad actors standpoint.”

Red team experts focus on attack techniques so they can better understand how to defend against them.

“We’re not teaching them to be hackers,” she said. “We’re teaching them hacking techniques to better secure networks.”

Millns said she will collaborate on the course with Shaun Bertrand, the senior vice president of security programs at CBI in Traverse City. Millns said much of Bertrand’s work leans more toward the red team side of cybersecurity.

Kelly, a faculty member for more than 30 years at Northwestern Michigan College in the engineering technology program, said Bertrand is part of a growing and expanding technology base in Traverse City.

This is particularly true in the field of cybersecurity.

The Ponemon Institute, like CBI, is also headquartered in Traverse City.

Founded by Larry Ponemon, the organization is described on its website as “a research think tank dedicated to advancing privacy, data protection and information security practices.”

“We’ve built a professional community,” Kelly said. “It amazes me the level of professionals we have in this area.”

Upon completion of the program, participants can achieve certification by passing the 200-201 CBROPS exam. Kelly said the certification is a step toward “new pathways for new talent to come into these professions.”

Kelly said the goal for the first cohort is 20 participants.

Anyone interested in registering can do so at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cyberops-associate-tickets-135155045379.

“That’s our target,” Kelly said. “We’ll just go from there.

“I’m just really excited about this coming together and providing a new pathway.”

20Fathoms launched a The Future is Digital Challenge this fall for people in the five-county area.

Amlotte said 52 people registered for phase one of the program (31 in digital marketing, 13 in business analytics, 8 in front-end developer). She added eight of those (5 in marketing, 2 in analytics and 1 developer) received scholarships for phase 2. The nanodegree program is underway and concludes in February.

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