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UTEP Joins Pioneering Initiative to Train Next Generation of Cyber Security Defenders

USSF Space Systems Command and Pacific Northwest National Lab will provide financial assistance and college-to-career pathways for UTEP students

EL SEGUNDO, California (Nov. 9, 2022) – The University of Texas at El Paso President Heather Wilson joined leaders from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command (SSC) at the command’s headquarters in Los Angeles yesterday to announce new career opportunities for UTEP students in cybersecurity.

UTEP President Heather Wilson joined leaders from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command (SSC) at the command’s headquarters in Los Angeles yesterday to announce new career opportunities for UTEP students through the Cyber Halo Innovation Research Program (CHIRP). The initiative offers students financial assistance and a direct, two-year pathway to cybersecurity careers at SSC or its industry partners.
UTEP President Heather Wilson joined leaders from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command (SSC) at the command’s headquarters in Los Angeles yesterday to announce new career opportunities for UTEP students through the Cyber Halo Innovation Research Program (CHIRP). The initiative offers students financial assistance and a direct, two-year pathway to cybersecurity careers at SSC or its industry partners.

The Cyber Halo Innovation Research Program (CHIRP) is a joint initiative of PNNL and SSC. It is a college-to-career program that brings together government, industry, and colleges and universities to provide students with a direct two-year pathway to a cybersecurity career at SSC or its industry partners.

“The development of cybersecurity talent will help keep America safe from increasingly sophisticated cyber threats,” Wilson said.  “This partnership provides financial assistance to our students as well as hands-on experience at Space Systems Command.  We are pleased to partner with PNNL and the Space Force to open more opportunities for our students.” 

Students who participate in CHIRP will fill critical jobs protecting space-based technologies such as satellites and global positioning systems. According to federal employment data, there are currently more than 600,000 information security professional positions vacant in the United States.

“Every day there’s some form of a cyberattack happening,” said Col. Jennifer M. Krolikowski, SSC chief information officer. “If we’re going to advance our posture in this realm, we must meet the up-and-coming workforce professionals right where they are – in the academic system. If we can give these students exposure to the threats earlier on, build their critical thinking, and maximize their potential through a program like CHIRP, we’re building a foundation for experts that can immediately contribute to the mission once they arrive in the workforce.” 

Through CHIRP, leaders from SSC and PNNL seek to address the growing need for hands-on training in the cyber security sector. The program was also designed as a response to a shortage of such experiences for students of minority and underrepresented demographics. 

“Innovative collaborations are essential to address the shortage of qualified, cybersecurity talent for the future STEM workforce,” said Evangelina Shreeve, director of PNNL’s Office of STEM Education. “CHIRP builds on the expertise of PNNL’s cybersecurity researchers and STEM education to uniquely equip this next generation of cybersecurity professionals.”

Starting in the Spring of 2023, UTEP students with at least two years of academic training can apply for selection into the program. Those selected will then participate in a summer cyber institute.

Students who complete the program will have direct access to employment opportunities with SSC, PNNL and other interested employers that have unfilled positions in areas like network security, cyber analysis, incident response, cyber policy, data architecture, continuity of operations, data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and secure software development. Students who accept those employment offers will be eligible for tuition remittance. 

UTEP is the second university to join CHIRP. California State University-San Bernardino was the first academic institution to offer CHIRP starting earlier this year.  

To learn more about CHIRP, visit the program’s homepage at www.pnnl.gov/chirp.

About Space Systems Command
Space Systems Command is the U.S. Space Force field command responsible for rapidly developing, acquiring, equipping, fielding and sustaining lethal and resilient space capabilities.

SSC mission capability areas include launch acquisition and operations, communications and positioning, navigation and timing (PNT), space sensing, battle management command, control and communications (BMC3), and space domain awareness & combat power. SSC is headquartered at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif.  

About PNNL
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science. For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

About The University of Texas at El Paso
The University of Texas at El Paso is America’s leading Hispanic-serving university. Located at the westernmost tip of Texas, where three states and two countries converge along the Rio Grande, 84% of our 24,000 students are Hispanic, and half are the first in their families to go to college. UTEP offers 169 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs at the only open-access, top-tier research university in America.

Last Updated on November 10, 2022 at 12:00 AM | Originally published November 10, 2022

By MC Staff UTEP Marketing and Communications