Erie Community College is on the map for helping to keep our country safe. The school is now training TSA agents throughout the northeast to help crack down on Homeland Security-related issues.
TSA is pushing for many of its students to obtain a mini-certification, taking multiple courses at ECC. The local community college is now training agents at some of the biggest airports in the northeast.
ECC began teaching counter-terrorism related issues in 2005, as a result of the September 11th attacks. From there, the Homeland Security Certification Program began at its Law Enforcement Training Academy.
In 2009, ECC and TSA teamed up to offer certain courses for 18 agents with the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. Those courses include Introduction to Homeland Security, Intelligence Analysis & Security Management and Transportation to Border Security.
TSA then approached ECC about making courses available online for its agents at smaller airports throughout New York State. It then expanded to New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.
This semester however, the program grew by leaps and bounds. TSA allowed employees from JFK, LaGuardia and Logan Airports in New York City and Boston to enroll in ECC's courses.
"We're the only homeland security certificate on the board at SUNY, and it increases are enrollement, plus it gives us marketability," said Richard Washousky, ECC's Vice President of Academic Affairs.
In all, ECC teaches students from 38 different airports in six states. Instructors include a former FBI agent, a former Naval Intelligence Officer and a Buffalo Police captain with post 9/11 training.
Current enrollment is at 150, but the school hopes to increase that by 20 percent by next fall.
One of the big challenges remains altering the courses to current events, in an era when counter-terrorism concerns are on the rise.
"I'm sure it's incorporating in their discussion forms what happened, what failures were made, what are the cracks on the system so we can safeguard against this," said Ed Hempling, the Academy Director of the Law Enforcement Training Academy. "They're going over those issues, what we can do to better secure our country."
Hempling explains that even the way terrorists strike has changed. "The well-planned well thought out attacks that preceded 9/11 that went on for a couple years, to these lone wolf attacks inspired by extremists," Hempling stated.
The TSA pays for its agents tuition and class related costs as long as they have been employees for at least six months and are in good standing. Agents are then able to take other online courses to obtain the 30-credit Homeland Security Certification.
A fourth course is expected to be added in the fall of 2016, focusing on leadership in emergency management.
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