Building Security at Tidewater Community College

by Janet Pinkerton | Aug 02, 2011
Lonnie Barnes
Lonnie Barnes

Tidewater Community College (TCC) and its workforce development program was a game changer for 27-year-old Lonnie Barnes in more ways than one. He came to the program as a CompTIA A+ training student and wound up an instructor with a career ready to launch.

Headquartered in Norfolk, Va., TCC offers courses based on certifications from CompTIA and other IT companies through its two-year associate degree program, a one-year certificate program, a career studies program and a non-credit workforce development program. Workforce development courses are offered both on campus and online.

Barnes arrived at TCC's Norfolk campus in the fall of 2009 for IT training in the workforce development program. He was looking to build a secure future for his daughter, Amara, then age 4, whom he raises alone. His job painting ships and submarines at Newport News Shipyard was not good enough. "I told myself that if I was going to do anything with my life, I had to make sure that my daughter was going to be okay," he recalls.

Seeking up-to-date IT knowledge and skills, Barnes selected TCC's workforce development program where he has since earned multiple certifications through TCC training, including the CompTIA A+CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ credentials.

In summer of 2010, TCC's CompTIA A+ instructor Joe Mann hired Barnes as a teaching assistant. "He had great faith in my abilities," says Barnes, who, at age 10, took apart his grandparents’ television because he was bored. "He started working with me one on one, and throwing me in front of the classroom, where I’d be giving lectures on security."

TCC's workforce development program requires that every faculty member be certified in the courses they teach, regardless of their academic credentials "I got my CompTIA Network+ certification in December 2010, and my CompTIA Security+ certification in January," says Barnes. "I've been teaching ever since."

Teaching workforce development classes is a challenge. "You can have one person who knows absolutely nothing about computers sitting next to someone who holds a master’s in computer science," Barnes notes. "You have to find a way to make it interesting to everybody."

Barnes requires lots of hands-on work from his students. In his CompTIA A+ class, he has students building a peer-to-peer network with eight client machines and has asked CompTIA Security+ and Network+ students to come in and set security policies for the network. Eventually, he hopes to have students install a forefront threat management gateway from Microsoft. For CompTIA Network+ Barnes challenged his students to design a network using specified technologies and protocols for presentation during the last week of class.

"My main goal with all my classes is getting people certified," Barnes explains. "I tell my students in the first week (of each course), 'It’s going to be hard sometimes. I do push, and people may not like me, but I promise that if you do the work, you will get certified.' "

"Certifications prove a certain skill set," he says, noting that IT help-wanted listings are now much more specific in description and, often, certifications are tied to specific job functions.

This summer, Barnes taught CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ courses, in addition to interning at Sumitomo Drive Technologies, a Chesapeake, Va.-based power transmission manufacturer, where he’s interviewing for a staff position. Eventually, he wants to start his own IT security company, and keep teaching on the side.

Barnes believes that TCC faculty and the certification training courses pushed him to define his goal for starting the security company. "Honest to God, I wouldn’t have come to that conclusion without coming here," he says. "They have the tools, the background and the people to make it happen, with Joe, Dennis Lutz (adjunct faculty member) and even some of the students. It all worked out for the best."


For more information about CompTIA certifications and training in the education channel, contact CompTIA's education program managers Alan Rowland at or (317)-456-2526, and Brian Matzelle at or (630) 678-8324.

To find out more about Tidewater Community College workforce development programs, contact TCC's Regional Workforce Development Center at or 757-822-1234.

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