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PAUL GREENBERG: Room at the top

The latest in vocational ed

By Paul Greenberg

This article was published October 11, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Thanks to a half-million dollars in We the People's tax money, the latest thing in trade schools is being established at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, better known as UCA. Dubbed a Cyber Range, this computer system is designed to let students become specialists able to spot a cyber attack, fend it off, and predict or prevent other cyber assaults. This state's governor, ordinarily the most cautious of leaders, seems barely able to contain his enthusiasm for this newest form of vocational training.

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RBBrittain says... October 11, 2017 at 10:03 a.m.

This sounds like just enough academic garbage to cover up someone's far-right opinion that the whole program is a boondoggle. Fact is, not only is cybersecurity a hot field right now; but unless EMPs from, say, a nuclear war between Trump & Kim Jong-Un wipe out the Internet entirely, it will be VERY important for the foreseeable future. (Even fired bosses mean constant upward mobility.) And even if it cools off, going back to school to learn something else is all too common nowadays. (I know that first-hand; I'm in my 50's writing this from the student lounge at UALR Bowen School of Law. Part of my undergrad degree was in COBOL programming; it's not exactly a hot field today, but from that I still know more about IT than a lot of folks.)

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PopulistMom says... October 11, 2017 at 3:43 p.m.

RBBrittain,

Yes. There are many programs in cybersecurity across the country--usually at universities with big computer science and engineering programs. U of A might be a better place for such a program. I don't know how many computer/engineering people go to UCA.

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Shearload says... October 11, 2017 at 4:05 p.m.

RBB, one need not be a conservative to believe that vocational training and a college education should be distinguished.

My first real job after college (BA, English) was with IBM as a systems engineer. Few schools had computer science programs at the time; IBM tested applicants for aptitude and trained new hires intensely for a minimum of two years. I call your COBOL and raise you FORTRAN, APL, RPG, BASIC, assembler, and machine language. And I can "lapse into Latin" or a couple of other modern languages. A few weeks ago, during a conversation with my daughter, I found that I could still recite Chaucer's prologue to his Canterbury Tales in Middle English.

IBM dominated their market for decades. Now, not so much.

I retired a few years ago from a multinational aerospace company as a senior engineer, but did many other interesting things during my working years. I picked up a law degree from the school you attend in the 1980s.

I'm with Paul on this one. UCA graduates will compete with software specialists from around the world. Indian engineers, for example, are fairly good, relatively cheap, and speak English. And soon enough, these graduates will be competing with AI.

Most students get only one shot at a liberal arts education. They should not throw away that shot.

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DoubleBlind says... October 11, 2017 at 4:50 p.m.

Ok, I read this about 5am today but resisted responding until I stopped laughing roughly 5mins ago. I'm actually willing to give PG a pass on his embarrassingly geezer-eyed view of the topic and merely attempt to better inform him. Cyber security is not a 'trade' or 'vocation.' These are 6figure STARTING salary jobs. He doesn't realize how far reaching and devasting cyber attacks can and will be. We're not talking merely credit or SS card theft. Virtually everything we do, use and rely on is now 'connected' and subject to attack. I'm guessing he doens't realize there are 6.5 MILLION lines of code behind the avionics and support systems of a Boeing jet. The nations entire power grid could be taken out. Those are just a couple of examples. The UCA stunt is small potatoes but should encourage all schools to adopt programs to prepare students for jobs in this very important field.

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DoubleBlind says... October 11, 2017 at 5:40 p.m.

Shearload - Impressive CV. I don't disagree with you re the value of a liberal arts education. I would certainly prefer to sit next to a LA grad at a dinner party; although, I'm somewhat partial to physicists as well. The problem is the COST of a liberal arts degree vs the VALUE in terms of employability. To your point, you didn't go on to make your living in your initial field of study. Whom today can afford to obtain multiple degrees other than those with wealthy parents. If one has to choose, liberal arts no longer has the edge - assuming the graduate wishes to eat after graduating.

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PopulistMom says... October 11, 2017 at 5:40 p.m.

My youngest is more of a STEM child, but he still has to take English and History etc. in high school and at college. He also has expressed an interest in teaching history, but his real strength seems to lie in engineering. There still is a severe shortage of computer engineers etc. so I am all for this plan. My neighbor who is high up in cybersecurity for a contractor seems to be doing very well.

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DoubleBlind says... October 11, 2017 at 6:07 p.m.

So Pop, let me engage you in a topic which may initially annoy you but will hopefully merit your thoughtful feedback.
*Given the cost of an education and the importance of ensuring people 'find' their path to gainful employment earlier (since a gap year or years, multiple degrees, etc. are increasingly cost prohibitive) I posit that big data analytics across the education lifecycle of students could play an important role in positioning them for success. For ex, you mention your son hews toward STEM but is proficient in liberal arts subjects. Would you object to having his results in each heuristically profiled throughout his term to determine his, theoretically anyway, most beneficial path?

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DoubleBlind says... October 11, 2017 at 6:44 p.m.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting the 'state' could then 'force' your son's track. They may finance it (perhaps with support by an employer with jobs in the space) if chosen, however. But you would certainly be free to self finance another path.

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GoBigRed says... October 11, 2017 at 9:51 p.m.

DB - there actually are services that can do that. Even 20 years ago they steered my brother-in-law to a career that he would never of considered and made a career of it.

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... October 12, 2017 at 5:30 a.m.

Shearload, thank you for a beautiful explanation mark behind Paul's column.

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