Montreat College continues to extend its role as a national leader in cybersecurity education and workforce development. Last week, Montreat College and Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC), co-founders of the Carolina Cyber Network (CCN) with RBX Solutions, co-hosted National Cyber Director Harry Coker, Jr., from the White House to discuss the critical role of cybersecurity in national security. Coker is the highest-ranking cybersecurity official in the U.S. government, reporting directly to the President of the United States. The event on the FTCC campus focused on strategies to address the shortage of qualified individuals in the field.

(Left to Right) Robert Shriver, Deputy Director, US Office of Personnel Management; Dr Paul Maurer, President of Montreat College; Harry Coker, Jr., National Cyber Director; Dr. Mark Sorrells, President of Fayetteville Technical Community College; and David Thompson, President and CEO of RBX Solutions.

Throughout his visit, Coker engaged with students, educators, employers, veterans, military families, and local leaders to gather insights into how the Carolina Cyber Network can be used as a model of success across the country to bolster the nation’s cybersecurity workforce.

“We defend cyberspace not because it’s some distant terrain on which we battle our adversaries,” Coker remarked to more than 200 veterans, students, and leaders of the North Carolina cyber community. “We defend cyberspace because it is interwoven into nearly every aspect of our lives. The only way we can defend the foundation of our modern way of life is to ensure that everyone has a pathway should they choose a career in cybersecurity. From what I have seen today, I can confidently say that North Carolina has the talent and North Carolina has the desire to serve.”

The Carolina Cyber Network is a consortium of 18 colleges and universities across the state of North Carolina that are collaborating to address the workforce shortage in a cooperative and coordinated manner. 

“Throughout my years in the Navy, the intelligence community, and the private sector, I’ve come to understand that everything comes down to people,” Director Coker said. “In cybersecurity, we need to find, hire, develop, empower, and inspire more people to help us fill the more than half a million open cybersecurity positions that exist in our nation today.”

Coker noted that North Carolina alone has 18,000 open jobs in cybersecurity across industries like manufacturing, healthcare, education, and finances. In addition, he underscored the importance of hiring people with character and leadership qualities in cybersecurity.

“Montreat College is focused on equipping students with technical skills that are grounded in character and ethics,” added Montreat College President Paul J. Maurer. “We believe that’s the best way to prepare students for jobs in cybersecurity, and national leaders want to know why our approach works so well.”

A key focus of the visit was analyzing the collaboration between former military personnel and colleges within the CCN to train and prepare individuals for vocations in cybersecurity. This partnership not only helps fill the increasing demand for skilled professionals but also recognizes the unique skills and experiences that veterans can contribute to the cybersecurity sector.

“You might not be in the same uniform I am anymore, but you’re going to continue to serve, especially as we talk about the cybersecurity workforce,” said Major General Colin P. Tuley, Deputy Commanding General of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Liberty. “That is servitude. That’s what it’s all about. You’re defending a nation.”

Elizabeth O’Brien, Executive Director at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes, expressed her gratitude for the CCN. She also commended their innovative approaches to talent development.

“We can never take our foot off the gas around continuing to move forward, especially around cyber,” she said. “These are the jobs that will continue to defend our country and ensure the stability of our military families. We have to continue to look within and reimagine every step of the way. The untapped potential of existing workers is also extremely important as we look to fill our cyber pipelines.”

As the world becomes increasingly complex, the need for innovative solutions to pressing challenges has never been more apparent. However, Robert Shriver, Deputy Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), expressed optimism for the future despite these complexities.

 “We live in a complicated world. We all see the news. We know the stakes, but I’m incredibly hopeful for our future,” said Shriver, who was introduced at the press conference by President Maurer. “Within the government, we are always having fresh faces with new ideas who come in and sign up to tackle our biggest challenges.”

For more information about the Carolina Cyber Network, visit

(Left to Right) David Thompson, President and CEO of RBX Solutions; Dr Paul Maurer, President of Montreat College; Major General Colin P. Tuley, XVIII Airborne Corps; Harry Coker Jr., National Cyber Director; Dr. Mark Sorrells, President of Fayetteville Technical Community College; Dr. Murtis Worth, Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Services at Fayetteville Technical Community College; Dr. Laura Leatherwood, President of Blue Ridge Community College; and Patrick Fleming, Sr. Vice President and CEO of North Carolina Community Colleges.