Louisiana's Bossier City grows its cyber and IT workforce through higher ed


Louisiana is expanding its cybersecurity offerings in hopes of boosting the economy.

Louisiana Tech University, a Tier One research institution with more than 12,000 students across its five colleges, has partnered with the Cyber Innovation Center to open a new Academic Success Center.

The new 30,000-square-foot facility will provide state-of-the-art cyber education and research tools — and the opening will coincide with a new master’s program in cyber technology, said Louisiana Tech President Les Guice.

“We’re in discussions with a company that has existing course content that they have already developed, and we’re working with our faculty to shape that into academic courses that would get people a master’s,” Guice said in an interview with EdScoop.

Guice said that ever since launching the first cyber-engineering program about five years ago, the cybersecurity and education communities have been building on that success.

“We’ve recognized a responsibility to meet the demands of the workforce here, and we’re rapidly growing this information technology and cyber workforce in North Louisiana,” he said.

“And we also know, because of the expansion of Barksdale Air Force base, that there’s a growing defense industrial base. If we’re going to really capitalize on all of that, we have to beef up our education here and workforce readiness.”

Moving operations to the Academic Success Center “will make it easier to find us,” he said.

The nearly $5 million facility, which will likely open in January 2018, will include a cyber training center, areas for student recruitment and counseling, lab spaces and a veterans’ resource center.

Guice said the equipment, including software and hardware, is still being negotiated, but he promised “robust hardware tools that allow us to teach different types of cybersecurity courses and software data analytics tools.”

Meanwhile, the Cyber Innovation Center, a longtime university collaborator, has for the past 10 years worked on building expertise in students from a young age.

Employees coordinate training and practical applications of math and science curricula in schools across the country, and they are moving to elementary schools after being a presence in middle and high schools.

Now, with the addition of the facility, they are casting an even wider net, according to Craig Spohn, executive director of the center and a board member of the university for 15 years.

“We’re looking beyond the traditional student population to bolster the workforce initiative, because we have 3,000 [open] jobs between Bossier City and Monroe,” Spohn said in an interview.

Spohn attributed the jobs to CenturyLink’s headquarters and CSRA, an IT services company, which already relies heavily on Louisiana Tech for higher education services.

The center will help veterans transition from active duty to training for jobs in high demand.

Guice said the university and surrounding area have already undergone a significant transformation. Just five years ago, the computer science program had about 175 students, he said, the same year the cyber-engineering program was created.

Over the past year, “we had over 600 students in both of those programs combined, and then we have another 150 students in computer information systems,” he said.

“We’re not only filling a need — we’re driving economic growth,” Guice said. “We’re producing this sense of urgency that we all have to seize this opportunity. It’s the reason that Craig and I came together and said, ‘This is an important way to use this space.'”

Reach the reporter at corinne.lestch@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @clestch and @edscoop_news.