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Schools target early start to create pipeline of cybersecurity talent

By David Schwartz
Published: February 11th, 2020

In a sign of just how critical companies and universities are viewing cybersecurity as a profession that will require a large but as yet unfilled talent pipeline, a Michigan consortium is reaching all the way back to grade school to begin educating students and grooming them for the future.

Their goal is to develop 2,000 cybersecurity leaders, and have 10% of the students training in advanced cybersecurity skills by the time they graduate. It’s all part of a plan hatched by the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) Cybersecurity Talent Consortium, led by NMU Corporate Engagement Director David Nyberg and local school superintendent Bryan DeAugustine. The consortium brings businesses, colleges, schools, and universities across the region together to work toward making the area known for cybersecurity talent. The consortium received almost $2.5 million from Michigan’s Marshall Plan for Talent program to help educators develop career pathways for students going into the cybersecurity industry.

“The goal is to collaborate, to create a cybersecurity pipeline that goes from the public schools, to secondary education, to employment,” said Escanaba Schools Superintendent Coby Fletcher. “What’s nice about this is that cybersecurity can be done from anywhere and doesn’t rely on an expensive infrastructure.… We can equip students with state of the art skills, provide good jobs, and help boost our regional economy.”

The U.P. Cybersecurity Talent Consortium is currently developing specific cybersecurity curricula for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 that will be offered at 18 school districts and four intermediate school districts. Escanaba Area Public Schools is one of five anchor districts involved in creating future employees in the cybersecurity industry. “Each will lead to micro-credentials, or badges, that students can earn throughout their secondary education,” said Nyberg.

Bay de Noc Community College is also involved in the talent development initiative. Its Dean of Business, Technology, and Work Force Training, Cindy Carter, said enrollment in cybersecurity is the highest it has ever been, partly due to the school’s Early Middle College (EMC) program. EMC gives high school students the opportunity to accumulate college credits while getting their diploma. The community college’s internship program also comes into play. “Now a student can pair up with a business and work hands-on, at the same time an employer gets a look at a potential employee. The student will graduate with a degree as well as a certification in the cybersecurity industry,” Carter explained.

She added that cybersecurity is also attractive to adult learners, such as veterans and career changers. “Non-traditional students are working for a two year degree in cybersecurity. There are jobs available and it can pay well,” said Carter. “I think we’ll see this continue to grow.” Students that start at Bay College can transfer to NMU and work toward a bachelor’s degree, she continued.

“Cybersecurity is a great field that anyone can get into. I think there’s a misperception out there that the field is too high-tech to get involved in, but anyone can do it,” said Carter.

NMU’s existing Cyber Defense and Information Assurance course expanded on May 2, 2019 with the opening of the Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute. The Institute is a place to test products, train, and collaborate. Training includes live security attacks and defense exercises.

Source: Daily Press

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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