UCCS has signed a strategic relationship agreement with global tech firm Cisco to develop a cybersecurity workforce development center.

Worldwide, it is Cisco’s only cybersecurity SRA with a university, UCCS Vice Chancellor Martin Wood said.

UCCS Chancellor Venkat Reddy announced the SRA at the National Cyber Symposium Nov. 1.

“In this agreement Cisco will serve as our technology partner, working with our faculty to develop cyber capabilities, through curriculum and training development, joint research, student internships and — this is the most exciting part — the business value approach,” Reddy said. “A BVA is essentially a strategic planning exercise that helps us to design and implement a cyber workforce development center.”

For the BVA, Wood said, the Cisco team interviewed stakeholders and community leaders in Colorado Springs.

“They come up with what they think would be the best way you should approach [building] your workforce development model, based on all the input they’ve got, all the documents they have. …” he said. “We’re just at the beginning of it, and ultimately it’s supposed to be a good guideline to help us focus our efforts.”

Reddy said the BVA report, a draft of which is expected within three weeks, will help “not just UCCS, but the whole cyber initiative in our community.”

The joint effort began when UCCS approached Cisco about helping the university develop a workforce development center based around education, training and research in conjunction with the National Cybersecurity Center, Wood said.

Under the nonbinding agreement, Cisco will license some of its cyber curriculum to UCCS and work with the university on developing areas of its own curriculum. Cisco also will partner with UCCS on grant submissions and training programs.

“This gets more into more of the certification area,” Wood said, “but they have a whole training component where they do different levels of certification that they would explore, and they have student internships that they can provide.”

Wood said apart from the BVA, UCCS and Cisco haven’t put a timeline on any of the proposed work. The SRA can be renewed by both parties after three years, or canceled by either party at any time.

Wood said the agreement is “a huge benefit” for UCCS.

“It provides us all these different possibilities of internships, grant opportunities, curriculum development,” he said. “What it really does is brings in a highly respected technical company partner and adds all kinds of value to what we’re trying to do.”

Cassie Roach, Cisco’s managing director of operations for its U.S. public sector, said Cisco “believes UCCS is well positioned to lead the development of cyber workforce training and establish Colorado Springs as a leading cyber destination.

“Cisco’s partnership with UCCS provides an outstanding opportunity to put our expertise to work now, at a time when cyber professionals are needed more than ever,” she said in an email. “UCCS’ state of the art facility powered by cutting-edge technology promises to accelerate the possibilities for research, education and training in the cyber space.”

Cisco chose to partner with UCCS because the university “has the immediate ability to reach students and the workforce through developing a training curriculum, participating in joint research, establishing student internships and creating a deeper cyber workforce,” Roach said.

“The digital revolution is the biggest disruption in the history of the security industry,” she added. “Unleashing a cybercrime economy estimated at more than $500 billion a year, no business or industry is immune to the relentless attacks that are targeting our customers’ security defenses.”

Roach said Cisco will  use additional resources to complement the SRA. These include Talos, Cisco’s threat intelligence group; the company’s Veterans Program for workforce development training; and Cisco’s Networking Academy, which reaches more than 7.8 million students in about 170 countries.

The Networking Academy program curriculum will jump start UCCS’ workforce development program, Roach said.

Wood said Cisco had its roots in higher education (founders Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner were Stanford University scientists) and shows “a lot of support and loyalty toward higher ed.

“UCCS has been working with Cisco for almost two decades, so I think this is as much a corporate goodwill, good citizen thing to do,” he said. “They like the project, they think that trying to build the cyber workforce is important, and I think it fits into part of what they do.”

The agreement costs UCCS “not a single dollar … we have no financial obligations at all,” Wood said. “As a corporation they only do about a handful of these [SRAs] a year globally — so for us to have the one that we do, we feel very fortunate and are very grateful for their support.”