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Jorrel Verella, District Director for California State Assemblymember Jose Medina, attended the Inland Empire Kickoff to continue Medina’s support for CyberPatriot at the Cyberhub as Chair of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee.

Medina hosted a special hearing on cybersecurity education in October and created Assembly Bill 276, which calls on colleges and universities throughout the state to issue a report on cybersecurity education and training programs.

“If we are to address the growing needs of the cybersecurity industry, especially in the Inland Empire, it is imperative that we begin cybersecurity training for students in middle and high school,” Medina said. “I am extremely impressed by the incredible work being done by CyberPatriot students, instructors, and administrators in the 61st Assembly District. CyberPatriot gives students valuable skills to not only succeed now but will address our region’s workforce needs in the future.”

A total of 5584 teams from around the country competed in round 1, and 54 of them earned a perfect score of 222. Nearly half of those teams were from California — which is a testament to the work that has been done so far to promote cybersecurity education around the state.

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That hard work was on display during the competition and was easy to see by those who attended the kickoff event. Educators also had the opportunity to learn more about the resources available through the California Cyberhub.

“It was wonderful to learn about the work of the California Cyberhub and the tremendous support in this region for our students to be trained in a field that is in great demand,” said Melody Graveen, Dean of Career Technical Education at Moreno Valley College. “Watching the students during their competition as they worked through the various problems they were given was truly impressive.”

Partnerships between high schools and community colleges are essential to creating a pathway toward jobs in the cybersecurity field. There are about 45,000 cybersecurity job openings throughout the state and not enough people to fill them.

This presents an opportunity for students from all backgrounds to receive the education and training necessary to meet workforce demand. High schools and colleges are eager to work together on making that happen.

“The partnership with Moreno Valley College and the MVUSD Cyber Academic program affords our students viable career pathways and is a testament to the forward progression of our ongoing mission and strategic plan in giving Moreno Valley students the best academic opportunities and a bright future in STEM-related careers,” said Martinrex Kedziora, Superintendent of the Moreno Valley Unified School District.

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Beyond the educational partnerships, the Inland Empire Kickoff also served as an introduction to CyberPatriot and Cyberhub for the United Way of the Inland Valleys. United Way Program Manager Jennifer Thornton attended the event and hopes to create a CyberPatriot team for students at the United Way.

Thornton said she was impressed by how collaboratively the students worked together and how well they were supported by their instructors and everyone who worked behind the scenes.

“I walked away with a feeling of joy knowing that the youth in our community are supported in such a tremendous way,” Thornton said.

CyberPatriot Qualification Round 2 for Inland Empire will be held December 9 at Moreno Valley College.

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Committee chairs Jose Medina and Jacqui Irwin called upon those stakeholders to work together to ensure that California’s students have the opportunity to pursue degrees that will prepare them for cybersecurity jobs.

Creating a pathway

A great demand exists for cybersecurity professionals in both the public and private sectors. The public sector is especially challenged because salaries can’t compete with private employers, as the committee heard from Amy Tong, California’s chief technology officer, and Mike Petit, chief information officer for Ventura County.

One way to combat that is to make students interested in cybersecurity earlier, which is already happening in several key ways across the state.

“We are creating a recruitment pipeline that starts in K-12 and continues through community college and CSU,” Tong said. “We want to help students see themselves as public servants.”

The cybersecurity education pathway may also include certifications provided through CompTIA, one of the world’s leading technology associations. James Stanger, CompTIA’s chief technology evangelist, told the committee that including certifications as part of the cybersecurity pathway ensures that students earn marketable skills in addition to an academic degree.

“Here’s how we can upskill the workforce and here’s an opportunity to meet demand,” Stanger said. “Certifications help students apply what they learn. It is all about pragmatic, practical applications of information technology.”

A robust cybersecurity curriculum will include elements of business and technology to ensure that students are able to understand and meet the needs of their future employers.

“Cybersecurity is not just a technical problem, it’s very much a business problem and our workforce needs to be trained accordingly,” Petit said.

California Cyberhub: A collaborative approach Collaboration around cybersecurity education is also happening is through the California Cyberhub, a collaboration of public education and industry that is compiling a central library of resources and encouraging support for cybersecurity competitions around the state.

The Cyberhub brings together partners from K-12 education, higher education, government organizations and the cybersecurity industry to provide opportunities for middle and high school students to become interested in cybersecurity at an early age and begin a pathway that leads to a college degree.

Cyberhub Community Manager Donna Woods said that the earlier students become interested in cybersecurity, the more likely they are to stick with it.

“The Cyberhub offers an opportunity for everyone work together on creating the best learning experience for our students,” Woods said. “We are trying to create a better path for our students moving forward.”

The Cyberhub concept was introduced at the California Cyber Innovation Challenge held at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo over the summer. Bill Britton, the school’s CIO and vice president of information technology, said he looks forward to continuing the discussions started at that event.

“The Cyberhub is one example of a solution to this program. Now we need others,” Britton said. “There are so many things that need to get accomplished and a lot of good work going on across the board.”

While the assembly hearing was taking place, across the street, the State of Cybersecurity Education Summit was underway which brought many of those same education, industry and government leaders together for a discussion on how to shape a cybersecurity curriculum pathway that extends from middle and high school to a college degree.

“The technology community is one community,” Tong said. “You do not need to have the title of a public servant to help protect the public’s assets.”

Looking forward

The Joint Oversight Committee encouraged those conversations to continue, both in the area of middle and high school outreach and in the area of college transfer credit articulation. There are currently about 27,000 students who are enrolled in cybersecurity-related classes at California community colleges, but there are far fewer opportunities for them to turn those classes into the degrees employers want to see.

Moving forward, leaders from California Community Colleges, CSUs and UCs will work together to map that pathway for college students across the state.

“We were able to help the committee discover the bottleneck that we have,” said Steve Wright, Information Communication Technology sector navigator in the community college Doing What Matters program. “We received clear instructions from the committee chairs to work together and continue these conversations moving forward.”

For more information about the California Cyberhub, visit ca-cyberhub.org.

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