Community colleges play a unique role in filling the thousands of open cybersecurity positions across California, and Steve Linthicum is at the forefront of helping students create the pathways that will lead to stable, well-paying jobs.
Linthicum is the Regional Director for Industry Engagement in Orange County for the Information Communications Technologies/Digital Media (ICT-DM) sector of California Community Colleges. In that role, he brings partners from education and industry together to meet critical workforce needs, like the one that exists in cybersecurity.
Before his current role, Linthicum spent nearly 20 years as an instructor at Sierra College in Rocklin, where he saw firsthand the valuable role that community colleges play in meeting ever-changing workforce demand.
“Because we have the ability to modify our courses quickly, not being constricted by the curriculum modification process 4-year colleges and universities face, we can teach what we need to be teaching in this rapid evolution of technologies,” Linthicum said.
Linthicum began incorporating cybersecurity into his courses in the late 1990s, with a focus on Microsoft Windows and Novell Netware security. Back then, he says, privacy and security were largely ignored because computers were not networked.
The addition of virtual machines in the years since has made teaching complex networking and other activities much easier.
“Teaching hands-on labs required the use of physical equipment rather than virtual machines, making it difficult to experience complex networking scenarios,” Linthicum said. “With virtualization, all we are limited to is our imagination when creating labs.”
Linthicum helped launch the IT Fundamentals Voucher Program, one of the resources offered by the Cyber-Guild in partnership with CompTIA, Practice Labs and ITProTV. The program provides high school and community college students with the opportunity to earn professional IT certifications while they are still in school.
“We have introduced students to industry-recognized certifications, and most of them now have their first certification, a recognized key to success for IT/cybersecurity careers,” Linthicum said. “Entry-level positions do not require an associate or bachelor’s degree. Students entering this career path can obtain additional higher-level certifications through courses offered by California’s community colleges.”
Linthicum is also a leader in Coastline College’s Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program, which began in 2017 as a way to bridge the gap between education and the workforce and help meet employer demand for entry-level positions. Students in the program receive on-the-job training as well as online instruction in networking or cybersecurity.
Tommy Hiers was one of the students in the apprenticeship program and recently accepted a position as a systems administrator at Space and Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, a U.S. Navy research lab in San Diego. He also works part-time as an instructor for Abled Disabled Advocacy teaching students what they need to know to pass the CompTIA Network+ and Security+ exams.
Hiers spent the majority of his career as a nurse and credited Linthicum as one of the people who helped give him the confidence he needed to make the transition to cybersecurity.
“I often wondered if I could successfully do anything else because I had been a nurse for so long,” Hiers said. “I am in my 40s and changing careers is no small feat. I would not have been able to do this without the guidance that Steve and Tobi West have provided. I now use many of the things that Steve taught me to teach my students.”
Outside of his teaching work, Linthicum is a volunteer with the Information Technology Disaster Recovery Center, a non-profit that deploys volunteer tech teams to areas impacted by natural disasters or other catastrophic events. He traveled to the Bahamas last fall to help bring the region’s technology infrastructure back online following Hurricane Dorian.