The Arkansas Department of Education announced a new cybersecurity education initiative last week which aims to help better prepare the state’s high school students for careers in cybersecurity.
The free cybersecurity curriculum and course pathway — being developed in partnership with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the University of Central Arkansas at Conway and the Arch Ford Education Service Cooperative’s Virtual Arkansas division — will give students the opportunity to immerse themselves in cybersecurity concepts and prepare to enter the workforce, which according to cyberseek.org, has more than 1,000 unfilled cybersecurity positions across the state.
“Once again, Arkansas’s educational institutions are demonstrating their commitment to providing our students with high quality educational opportunities that will prepare them for the job market they will soon be entering into,” Gov. Hutchinson said in a statement.
Set to begin in the 2020-21 school year, the program will take students through a three-year program where students will learn about fundamental computer science and eventually advanced cybersecurity concepts.
Courses will be aligned to the ADE Information Security, ADE Advanced Information Security, and National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, or NICE, standards and will prepare students for industry recognized cybersecurity certifications, like CompTIA’s Networking Plus and Microsoft Technology Associate certifications.
“The greatest cyber-threat to national security is K-12 education,” said Kevin Nolten, director of academic outreach for the Cyber Innovation Center and the National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center. “Our responsibility as a state and as educators is to align both standards and curricula to cyber-based workforce roles to ensure that students are graduating high school with not only an awareness of cyber but the knowledge, skills and abilities to close the workforce gap that exists in cyber.”
This initiative is the latest effort by the Arkansas government and educational institutions to advance cybersecurity education in the state. Arkansas has taken consistent action to improve student opportunities in STEM education, including the formation of a cybersecurity task force and stipend program for computer science teachers.
“As our state moves forward in our computer science and computing initiative, we will remain focused on preparing our students for the high paying and open career opportunities that are out there like those in cybersecurity,” said Hutchinson.