According to Governor Terry McAuliffe, there are more than 17,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in Virginia. Thanks to a new state grant, students in the Twin Counties will soon be more qualified to start landing some of those jobs.
One of 32 divisions throughout the Commonwealth to receive a $62,500 grant for the state initiative, Carroll County will host a Virginia CyberCamp this summer at the Crossroads Institute in Galax. Carroll County received the grant to partner along with Grayson County and the City of Galax. The local camp will be open to 25 students from the three school divisions, and will be free of charge to participants. It is scheduled to be held from June 20-July 1.
“I think it’s good for the kids because it lets them see what’s out there,” said Curt Sumner, a CTE teacher at Carroll County High School and program manager of the CyberCamp. “Think about it – kids in this area, do they really have any idea of what’s available to them? You’ve got to wonder because this isn’t the most technology-driven place in the world. But seeing stuff like this maybe will open their eyes to, ‘Man, there is a job out there that I could do something pretty cool.’”
Alex Leonard, a technology instructor at CCHS and director of the local CyberCamp program, is excited about what the program could potentially offer to the area. Goals of the CyberCamp are to increase awareness of careers in cybersecurity among teachers and students; introduce students and teachers to cybersecurity-related industry credentials; and to provide students a foundation in which they can pursue a certification during the upcoming school year. Cybersecurity has become an industry with numerous types of jobs, creating the need for an expanded cybersecurity work force.
“And they can do it here. These are mostly online jobs,” Leonard said. “We could have somebody start a business here doing cybersecurity for anything technology based, putting money back into our economy locally. It’s something good for us here and good for the economy here if we can get some technology. We are mostly agriculture. Agriculture now you have intermingled with technology, so it goes hand in hand.”
Using a cybersecurity curriculum supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the camp will provide knowledge-based and performance-based experiences related to cyber issues, cyber careers, and the role that cybersecurity plays in daily life. Work force issues are examined in lessons that address the consequences of acts of terrorism, the necessity of a networked society, and cybersecurity threats.
“We’re going to increase the awareness of careers in cybersecurity among teachers and students. We’re going to engage students with project-driven learning and then introduce these teachers and students to our core team with some of the cybersecurity industry standards,” Leonard said. “It’s kind of an introduction to the cybersecurity program. The NSA right now is looking at 2,600 jobs and there are not enough individuals out here to fill them. So Virginia is trying to step in and say, ‘Okay, we are going to jump in and offer some programs, get students and teachers interested in it and make them aware that, hey, there is jobs out here in this.’”
Participating students will be fed lunch and transportation will be provided each day for the camp. Carroll County, Galax and Grayson County qualified for the grant because they are listed as “challenged” school districts, defined as having 50 percent or more students on free or reduced lunch plans.
The core group of teachers and instructors involved in the program will begin preparing for the summer CyberCamp in March. Leonard said the program will be STEM-based and teachers will have to show how lessons learned from the camp can be integrated into future school curriculums. The program will be very “hands-on.” With only 25 spots available for the three school divisions, admission into the program will be competitive.
“It’s a really neat program and we are hoping we can get a lot of students to apply for it,” Sumner said. “Maybe this will be something they could go, ‘You know, maybe this is something I could do.’ I think it will be fun for them. At the same time, it needs to be taken seriously by the student because you are getting an opportunity to do something that not everybody is getting a chance to do.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on [email protected]