future of cyber safety

Houston college system opens new cybersecurity training facility

Houston Community College has made a big move to prepare the future of cybersecurity. Photo via Getty Images

A center created to train future cybersecurity specialists recently opened at Houston Community College’s West Loop campus.

The center, featuring equipment such as a miniature water plant and a car-hacking workbench, simulates cyberattacks. HCC cybersecurity students will undergo training there. Of the college’s more than 500 cybersecurity students, over 300 are pursuing associate degrees and over 200 are working toward certificates.

“Students who complete an associate degree or certificate in cybersecurity at HCC are landing high-paying jobs right out of the gate such as IT help desk and computer support specialists,” Samir Saber, dean of HCC’s Digital Information and Technology Center of Excellence, says in a news release. “Others go on to become security analysts, security engineers and cybersecurity architects.”

Employers in the U.S. are struggling to fill nearly 715,000 cybersecurity job openings, according to CyberSeek, which tracks supply-and-demand data for the cybersecurity workforce. That number includes more than 83,000 cybersecurity openings in Texas, with nearly 9,300 of those in the Houston area.

In Texas, the annual pay for a cybersecurity worker averages $88,276, according to career platform ZipRecruiter. The national average is $112,974.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the number of people working as an information security analyst (a subset of the cybersecurity workforce) in this country will rise 33 percent from 2020 to 2030. That makes it one of the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. From May 2021 through April 2022, there were 180,000 openings for information security analysts, according to CyberSeek.

“Cybersecurity is national security,” says Madeline Burillo-Hopkins, president of HCC Southwest and vice chancellor of HCC Workforce Instruction. “With the opening of the new center, the college is equipping students with the skills needed not only for their careers but also for making a lasting impact on the nation’s security across industries and organizations.”

A $650,000 state grant financed the new training center, and cybersecurity company Grimm helped install the lab and trained HCC cybersecurity instructors.

In 2017, HCC was designated by the National Security Agency as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. The new lab will help the college maintain that status for another five years, Saber says.

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With the consumer price index rising 9.1 percent since last year, many Americans are evaluating new employment opportunities with better pay. However, employees would be wise to consider the risks of accepting a new position in the face of inflation and a possible recession, which could leave employers unable to sustain higher wages and generous benefits.

As a safer option in the longterm, employees may wish to ask for a raise from their current management, yet many do not know how to start the conversation. By understanding best practices for negotiations, employees can improve their chances of obtaining a pay raise without undermining relationships.

Understand the risks of job-hopping

Conventional wisdom suggests that job hopping can result in higher salary increases than an annual raise. During the pandemic, many employees took advantage of labor market shortages to secure new positions for higher pay. However, job hopping presents risks, particularly in an uncertain economic environment. Companies may institute “last in, first out” layoffs, leaving recent hires unemployed.

Even in strong economic conditions, job-hoppers face uncertain outcomes. When employees leave a company, they may leave behind teammates, mentors, client partnerships and friendships years in the making. These relationships can redevelop in a new organization, but employees may find themselves in an unfamiliar setting, facing unrealistic expectations or unexpected challenges that were not clear during the interview process.

Prepare ahead of time

Before approaching management with a request for a raise, employees should understand their own financial needs and how much additional compensation would improve their finances. If inflation has caused financial strain, employees should gather recent data on inflation, including the consumer price index, to share with management. The more information employees can offer about changing economic conditions, the more management will understand and accept their position.

Focus on the positive

Employees should begin a conversation about salary with praise for the organization and a reiteration of their commitment to the team. By beginning on a positive note, employees set the tone for a mutually productive conversation. Although employees may view salary negotiations as adversarial across the table, productive negotiations are a conversation with both employee and employer on the same team.

Likewise, while employees may worry about looking greedy, employees should not let that fear prevent them from opening the conversation. Employers also understand that employees work to meet their financial needs. While employers may face budget constraints or other considerations in salary allocation, strong management also recognizes the importance of nurturing growth among employees, both in compensation and job responsibilities.

Nonetheless, employees should focus the discussion on broader economic conditions like inflation, not on their personal budget items. By acknowledging the economic environment outside of the employer’s control, employees can then respectfully request their salary be adjusted for inflation.

Employees with a record of strong results can also gather data or performance reviews to demonstrate their contributions to the team beyond the expectations of their role. In doing so, employees can frame a salary increase as a celebratory recognition of the mutually successful partnership between employee and employer and an investment in the relationship.

Be flexible if negotiations stall

If employers decline to adjust an employee’s salary for inflation, employees should not give up on negotiating additional compensation or benefits. Rather than a pay raise, employees can ask for reimbursement for gas mileage or additional remote days to cut down on their commutes. If management declines a pay raise based on timing, employees can acknowledge that management may face budgetary constraints, remaining flexible but firm. For instance, a compromise may involve revisiting the discussion in three to six months.

As employees face record-breaking inflation, it remains critical to consider the risks of departing one role for another. By implementing best practices in salary negotiations, employees can secure a salary increase that matches inflation, avoid the uncertainty of job-hopping and invest in the future at their current company.

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Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity,a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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