Holmes High School’s Johnny Carrera started the school’s cyber program 12 years ago with computers rescued from a scrap heap computers and oil-stained benches recycled from the auto body shop.
He’s gotten used to seeing kids get certified in software platforms such as A +, Network + and Linux +. The school’s CyberPatriot team is No. 1 in Texas.
So it irks him when architects plan a new high school with a culinary arts facility, state-of-the-art auto body shop and beautiful science buildings — but not a single cyber classroom.
Or when college scouts show up routinely at Friday night football games but seem oblivious to the skills of the cybersecurity kids.
“The mentality is completely wrong,” Carrera said during a panel discussion this week at CyberTexas, a conference focused on the fast-growing field of cybersecurity. The two-day event, held at the Convention Center, ended Friday. “These kids are throwing 90-mile-per hour fastballs with no one to pitch to. I just had the No. 1 Texas cyber team in the state and only one college gave me a call. Why is that happening?”
Data beaches such as those at Sony, Target and Anthem have helped jolt the corporate world into an era of cybersecurity. But there’s an estimated 300,000-person deficit of cybersecurity specialists. And 95 percent of U.S. high schools do not have formal cybersecurity programs.
To combat that, the federal government has launched the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, which is being led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Private enterprise is developing training programs for teachers, such as Columbia, Maryland-based LifeJourney’s cyber Teacher, a cloud-based professional development and certification program.
The nonprofit Cyber Innovation Center, based in Bossier City, Louisiana, has introduced its National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center, designed to be a nexus of training and curriculum.
“We wanted to solve that next-generation workforce issue,” Cyber Innovation Center’s Kevin Nolten said. “If we can get to the teacher, we can begin infecting cyber into the students and ultimately the workforce of the future.”
NICERC has worked with universities to develop its library of content and curricula for third through 12th grades.
“It’s project driven. It’s all modular based to where a teacher can be empowered,” Nolten said.
He explained how cyber is infused into the traditional curriculum of science, technology, engineering and math courses as well as liberal arts courses such as English and social studies.
The music module, for example, uses tones to unlock a safe, algebra to decrypt the encrypted document inside, and liberal arts skills to produce a paper on cyber hygiene.
“We’re now integrating cybersecurity, security clearances, ethical hacking, encryption and decryption,” into the curricula, he said.
Cyber has turned the corner to being cool again, said Terry Erdle, executive vice president of Denver-based CompTIA.
Showing 16-year-old boys Norse Corp’s global real-time hacking map was all it took to get them thinking about a future in cybersecurity, he said.
“They were off into ‘Call of Duty’ cyber in their minds,” he said. “And part of this mission that we’re on is to get people interested and excited about cyber.”
Another way is to make students aware of the high-paying opportunities in cybersecurity. One method of doing that is to use tools such as Burning Glass’ database on where the workforce cybersecurity gaps are.
“Obviously, you’re talking about banks, you’re talking about lawyers, health care — you see the need across the board,” he said.
By: Lynn Brezosky