QUEENSBURY — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer plans to seek federal funding so other community colleges can replicate SUNY Adirondack’s cybersecurity program.
“This kind of program could be a model for some of the other community colleges throughout the state — even the country,” he said Monday during a visit to the campus.
Schumer, D-N.Y., visited SUNY Adirondack to hear about its computer security-related programs, including cybersecurity and information technology security.
He will seek “a very significant amount” of funding in the federal budget to increase training to combat cyber threats, Schumer said.
The recently approved two-year budget deal boosted nonmilitary discretionary spending by $60 billion, and Schumer said he hopes some of that money can be used to expand such programs at SUNY Adirondack and elsewhere.
Schumer got to hear from faculty and students about the cybersecurity courses and from business owners benefiting from the training.
Marc Guise, assistant professor of computer science, said cybersecurity is a growing field. He cited information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that the median pay for students with a four-year degree in a cybersecurity field is $92,000 and the number of jobs in that industry is expected to increase by 28 percent, to over 28,000 by 2026.
Nick Paigo, associate professor of graphic arts, said students are learning about real-world applications, including a recent lesson on cyber threats and how to combat them. One such attack they studied was used in the recent cyber attack at the Olympics.
Rolf Ronning of Bolton, a returning adult student, said he wanted to get into this program because he liked the combination of cybersecurity and criminal justice to protect data. He said this program provides a lot of opportunity for small business owners.
Stephen Mann of Glens Falls is planning to complete the Cisco network program in the spring. He hopes to become a network administrator.
He said he first became interested in computers when he was able to hack into his friends’ America Online messaging conversations. While that was harmless fun, however, the threats today are more serious.
“They can take down websites, cause personal and financial damages,” he said.
He mentioned the Equifax hack that resulted in the personal information of more than 145 million people being exposed, and the recent indictment of 13 Russians for meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Small business owners Jared Humiston of Adirondack Technical Solutions and Alan Van Tassel, executive vice president of Stored Technology Solutions, talked about the importance of a skilled workforce.
Humiston said he wants to build a business in his hometown of Argyle and that means building the skills of the local workforce.
“We wanted to create opportunities for people who normally don’t have an opportunity in that community,” he said.
Van Tassel agreed that there is a shortage of labor and the need for cybersecurity is growing.
“We have to go outside the community to find help,” he said.
Schumer said SUNY Adirondack’s program is fulfilling a need in the country.
“Whether it’s the private sector or the public sector, the need for trained people who can protect us from cyberattack and cybertheft is enormous and vital. It’s one of the most important jobs that we can do in this country over the next decade.”
In addition, Schumer said such programs will provide jobs for people in the Adirondack region.
“Our community colleges, when they do their best, are the link between the jobs that are needed to be filled and the people who want to fill those jobs,” he said.
He said he is glad that the program also helps small businesses.
“Our small businesses can’t spend all their time training people. They’re too busy,” he said.
In a brief question-and-answer session with reporters after the event, Schumer said he is worried that Russia will attempt to interfere in the 2018 mid-term elections.
“We have to do everything to stop it. Putin is a very clever man,” he said.
On gun control, Schumer said Trump’s budget proposal slashed funding for the background check database, which prevents felons and people who are determined by a court to be mentally ill from getting guns.
“It makes no sense, so I’m going to fight to get that money restored, and it has broad support from both parties,” he said.
Schumer also said he supports bringing expanded broadband access to rural communities. A total of $2.5 billion has been included for this in the new budget.
“Just as Franklin Roosevelt said in the ‘30s every rural home should get electricity, we are now saying that every rural home should have access to broadband,” he said.
Speaking of Franklin Roosevelt, Schumer said he was one of his three favorite presidents along with fellow New Yorker Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.