NEWS | July 27, 2022

Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy partners with the University of Charleston for Information Technology and Cybersecurity training opportunities

By Bo Wriston West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

Cadets from the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy – South will receive entry-level Information Technology and Cybersecurity training as part of a new partnership initiative with the University of Charleston.

The goal of the partnership is to provide cadets with tools that will make them immediately marketable in the IT and Cybersecurity job market upon graduation. There will be seven cadets in the initial pilot program for the training, with the hopes that the elective will continue to provide opportunities for future classes. Once established, the program is expected to also be offered as an elective to MCA-North located in Kingwood, West Virginia.

The training will be conducted virtually, with cadets at their campus in Montgomery, West Virginia, and the instructor at UC. Cadets who complete the training course will receive a certificate and will have additional opportunities to work on additional certification and training opportunities post-graduation.  

“We are extremely excited to partner with UC as they offer IT and Cybersecurity courses for our cadets,” stated Paul Perdue, Program Director for MCA-S. “The goal of the ChalleNGe Academy is to assist youth at risk of not graduating high school to find success and become good citizens. These courses will allow our cadets to become marketable upon graduation in a field that has countless opportunities available and offers a good living wage. We look forward to seeing our cadets prosper.” 

Dr. Adam Beatty, Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Director of Cybersecurity at UC agrees.

“UC is honored to collaborate with MCA-S and the West Virginia National Guard by offering the future leaders of the cybersecurity sector the education and skills needed to ensure our digital safety. UC is ranked as the best online cybersecurity degree programs available, and we are happy to provide the accessibility of our faculty and their knowledge and expertise to the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.”   

According to Lt. Col. William Hargis, Director of Cyber Operations for the Guard, this new partnership continues to build and strengthen the already existing partnership between UC and the WVNG.

“The WVNG and University of Charleston have had a long history of synergy in regard to UC providing information technology (IT) training to the Soldiers and Airmen of the WVNG,” he stated. “With this new MCA initiative, both organizations plan to expand that synergy and partnership. As recent world events have demonstrated, the need for additional public, private, and military partnerships in IT and Cybersecurity have never been higher. Leveraging the knowledge, real-world experience, and research assets that West Virginia academic institutions like UC has is a vital component to keeping our state safe and ahead of the digital curve.” 

With the demand for IT and cybersecurity professionals at an all-time high in the US, the program has a great opportunity to develop a next generation of technicians in West Virginia that are seeking to join this ever-evolving career field. 

The mission of the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy is to train and mentor selected at-risk youth to become contributing members of society using the Eight Core Components in a quasi-military environment during a 22-week residential and one-year post-residential follow-up program. It is a free volunteer program for West Virginia youth ages 16 to 18 years old who are educationally at-risk. 

Since its inception in 1993, the MCA program has graduated 5,178 cadets with 2,111 earning their high school diplomas.