Building the Cybersecurity Workforce of the Future

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Cybersecurity is an in-demand, growing field, so it falls to schools to help students enter the industry. The inequities faced by different students make this a challenge, which Digital Promise’s Inclusive Cybersecurity Pathways Cohort strives to address.

In the edLeader Panel “Building the Cybersecurity Workforce of the Future: How Industry, K-12, and Post-Secondary Work to Create Sustainable Pathways” the panelists, which included education leaders from districts participating in the cohort, discussed building pathways to help students of diverse backgrounds develop skills in cybersecurity and join the workforce right out of high school.

Akilah Allen, Education Director of R&D for Digital Promise, started by introducing Digital Promise’s Center for Inclusive Innovation, which supports school districts working with communities to create learning opportunities for historically and systematically excluded students. The Inclusion Innovation Model, which guides the Center’s work with districts, especially regarding cybersecurity, puts the focus on building relationships and giving students and teachers voices.

Keith Koehne, Co-founder of Paradigm Cyber Ventures, which has partnered with the Center as part of the Inclusive Cybersecurity Cohort, talked about how cybersecurity is a growing field with over 572,000 job openings. Businesses need talent so they requested a cybersecurity program to educate students so they’re career ready by age 18.

Furthermore, the federal government and the majority of school community members want students to develop cyber skills and schools to develop programs to provide student pathways for careers and advanced education in cyber fields.

Paradigm Cyber Ventures developed a program based on student outcomes that gives direct benefits to students and districts by getting students ready for industry recruitment and college, and by helping districts increase community relationships and provide a workforce pathway. Their cyber program is a curriculum that gives students access to cybersecurity and schools access to industry partners.

Dr. Brooke Morgan, Coordinator of Innovative Learning for Talladega County Schools (AL), explained that her district is high poverty, with 7,000 students. Initially, only one high school in the district offered a cybersecurity course, but working with Paradigm Cyber Ventures helped expand the cybersecurity program to additional schools.

Her district started planning a year ago and tested student interest with a career fair. They built a core team consisting of two district leads, principals, teachers, community members, students, and parents. The program sparked excitement and new connections. It gave students real-world access to professionals and showed the need for cybersecurity. Dr. Morgan emphasized inclusiveness and how this has brought together diverse groups of students and business partners.

The program results were excellent. A state grant refreshed school technology, the percentage of cybersecurity students who are chronically absent is lower than that of those not in cybersecurity, and teachers reported higher student engagement. The next steps will include matching students with mentors and business connections and supporting students pursuing certifications.

Dr. Brian Huff, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for the Rowland Unified School District (CA), talked about his district—which has predominantly poorer students of different ethnic backgrounds—and how the district put students at the center of the cyber-planning process.

His district had a history of CTE pathways, and cybersecurity was added to one pathway. They built the core team with student leaders, families, translators, community colleges, and industry partners, and partnered with IBM and local businesses for a keynote and panel. The program started at one school, where student engagement was more than double what was predicted.

Students loved connecting to businesses, and multiple businesses committed to providing opportunities for students. Students and teachers felt a sense of belonging, validation of their rigor, and accomplishment, and a sense of their future pathways. The district has plans to expand its program next year.

Cybersecurity is both in demand and something students are interested in. When schools participate in inclusive innovation to design programs, they give marginalized students a chance to succeed in a growing industry and get students engaged in learning. Through cybersecurity, schools can give students a chance at a bright career right out of high school.

Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, Building the Cybersecurity Workforce of the Future: How Industry, K-12, and Post-Secondary Work to Create Sustainable Pathways, sponsored by Digital Promise Center for Inclusive Innovation.

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Join the Community

Inclusive Innovation to Transform Education is a free professional learning community where educators can share ideas, research, and practices to foster the creative ingenuity of communities working in partnership with school districts to create equitable powerful learning opportunities for students furthest from opportunity.

Digital Promise’s Center for Inclusive Innovation reimagines education research and development (R&D) by resourcing the creative ingenuity of communities working in partnership with school districts to create equitable powerful learning opportunities for students furthest from opportunity. The foundation for Inclusive Innovation is anchored in a set of core tenets that embody an equity-centered approach to research and development. The tenets define how we deliberately support teams in co-constructing an inclusive R&D culture that enables equitable leadership and contribution.

How unlocking the power of R&D through inclusive innovation cann transform education


Article by Jon Scanlon, based on this edLeader Panel