Mayor Rahm Emanuel is once again dipping into the unclaimed millions left over after a token property tax rebate — this time to offer cybersecurity training at City Colleges of Chicago in partnership with the Department of Defense.
Last week, President-elect Donald Trump acknowledged for the first time what the intelligence community he distrusts long asserted: that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic Party emails exposed to embarrass Democrat Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.
But Trump argued that lax cybersecurity at the Democratic National Committee had left the emails vulnerable to attack. He blamed the DNC for failing to protect the sensitive information.
With the issue of cybersecurity front-and-center, Emanuel is joining forces with the U.S. Department of Defense on a groundbreaking initiative to train students at City Colleges for tens of thousands of jobs in the burgeoning field.
“How do I prepare Chicagoans for jobs that will be both plentiful and pay well? They’re good middle-class jobs. These jobs pay $80,000-a-year — starting. Six months of boot-camp training and you get a salary of $80,000, and we have 10,000 jobs coming to Chicago,” the mayor told the Chicago Sun-Times in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
“I’ve been working on this for a good nine months. You see the times I’ve gone to the Defense Department. I’m sure you guys looked at my schedule and thought, `What is he doing there?’ ”
The program will be financed, in part, by $1 million left unclaimed after a $20 million property tax rebate that most Chicago homeowners chose to ignore. The remaining $500,000 will come from the federal government.
The new cybersecurity “boot camp” will begin this spring at Wright College with students learning how to secure computer networks in the public and private sectors alongside active-duty military personnel.
It will be patterned after the six-month boot-camp course offered only to uniformed personnel at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.
Those who survive the training will qualify to sit for the “Offensive Security Certified Professional Certification Test.” That’s known as the most sought-after credential in the cybersecurity industry.
Eighty percent of the graduates of the cybersecurity boot camp at Fort McNair pass the test, compared to just under 20 percent of all candidates nationwide.
Emanuel said he’s excited about the partnership because the training will qualify City Colleges students for 200,000 new jobs each year in the field of cybersecurity.
“It’s gonna be the only community college system in the United States to host cyber security training by the Defense Department. . . . And it’s not only the jobs we see coming. Because of our partnership with the Defense Department, we’ll be able to recruit companies that want to move their cybersecurity divisions to Chicago because we’re gonna have a guaranteed flow of the best-trained workforce in cybersecurity,” he said.
The mayor refused to say whether he agrees with Trump that the DNC is to blame for the steady drip of hacked emails that embarrassed and infuriated Clinton during the presidential campaign.
“Look at what happened to Sony and their executives. . . . This is happening in every industry. Every sector of the economy. Whether you’re a health care company. Whether you’re the Democratic Party or Republican party or whether you’re in the media business,” he said.
“People now need to set up systems that are secure and safe so they allow for commerce. I want to position the city [to capitalize]. . . . This is a real validation of what we’re doing.”
The first six-month boot camp at Wright will serve up to 30 students.
But Emanuel called the $1.5 million partnership a “down payment” on a continuing program and development of a “full-fledged, credit-bearing pathway” at a City Colleges system now preparing students for jobs in fast-growing industries.
“This is not a one-time boot camp. We’re gonna be doing one every six months. We’re gonna keep this permanently in the city,” he said.
As groundbreaking as the new program is, it’s unlikely to sit well with Chicago aldermen.
They have demanded that Emanuel present them with a plan to use unclaimed property tax rebate money instead of doling out the money to pet projects of his own choosing.
Emanuel has already used the unspent money to bankroll more than $6 million worth of programs to provide: legal protection for immigrants; body cameras for police officers; to acquire and rehabilitate vacant homes in depressed neighborhoods; and, now, for cybersecurity training.
Only the Legal Protection Fund was approved by the City Council.
On Tuesday, Emanuel made no apologies for forging ahead without City Council approval.
“This is one of those things that’s investing in jobs,” the mayor said.
“Like we did on protecting immigrants, like we’re doing in protecting an industry for the future and like we did on police officer body cameras — this is something that all aldermen will support. I’m confident of that. . . . We’ve been in consultation with aldermen. . . . There will be time to get peoples’ support for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be the one school in the United States that has state-of-the-art cybersecurity training.”