padlock with computer coding

PCC expands cybersecurity programs

Pueblo Community College has seen its computer information systems department grow in enrollment by more than 17 percent this semester. The enrollment increase has been consistent for the program for the past two years - even during the pandemic when many colleges have cut departments' budgets or eliminate programs as a whole. The department is also expanding into bachelor's degree programs like secure software development.

Most recently, PCC hired a coordinator to help them start planning an e-sports lab for the fall semester.

"We've done lots of work with local high schools and concurrent enrollment," said Mike Krakow, chair of the computer information systems department at PCC. "We currently partner with Cañon City High School in PTECH, which is a pathway of early high school and college."

The PTECH program at PCC has also expanded to Centennial High School and is in talks with other local schools about introducing the program there. The early college program is funded by the state so high school students can earn their associate's degree at PCC at nearly no cost to them.

The department's cybersecurity program has also seen significant growth and was recently named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA).

"I think going to all the enrollment events at the high schools before COVID helped (with increasing enrollment)," Krakow said. "Adding the number of degree programs and the outreach with national cyber week has also helped."

The department did not expect to see growth in enrollment, especially during the pandemic. He said during the spring semester, enrollment numbers tend to be flat. Its computer science program has seen the largest enrollment increase of all the majors in the department.

"There's a huge demand nationally and in Colorado for software developers and programmers," he said. Student retainment has also been a success for the department and has allowed them to expand. After at least one semester or so, veteran students have stayed enrolled in the program.

"There's such a shortage of cybersecurity professionals, software developers and computer programmers right now," Krakow said. "Software developers are the number two job in demand in Colorado."

While jobs in the computer science field are in demand across the state, most of the opportunities are in larger cities like Colorado Springs and Denver.

The department hopes to keep its graduates in Pueblo and attract more employers to the area.

"There is a lot of activity in Cañon City and Florence. They've been really recruiting employers into southern Colorado, much of the energy seems to be in that area," he said.