LOS ANGELES — Today synED, a national non-profit organization that identifies emerging best practices for effective articulation between employers, job seekers, and education providers, announced that Bernie Skoch was selected as their national CyberHero for October.
Skoch shared, it’s easy to give yourself a pat on the back following success, but he prefers to focus on those around him and on all the work that’s still left to be done.
Over the past 10 years, Skoch’s leadership and tireless work ethic has benefitted the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program and the tens of thousands of students across the U.S. who became inspired to pursue cybersecurity careers as a result of CyberPatriot.
“We “high-five” at CyberPatriot’s remarkable growth curve, but when we realize there are about 40,000 high schools in America, we realize very quickly that we have a lot of work to do,” Skoch said.
Skoch became CyberPatriot National Commissioner in 2010 after nearly 30 years in the U.S. Air Force, where he managed and implemented communications systems and quickly saw the need to make them more secure.
“I was responsible for systems that relied heavily on cybersecurity. It became very clear to me that without secure systems, we might as well have no systems at all,” Skoch said. “Becoming involved with CyberPatriot, and having more than a few grandchildren, made me realize how vulnerable our youth are unless we equip them with the tools they need to protect themselves online.”
Today, more than 7,000 teams across the U.S. participate in the CyberPatriot competition, and thousands of students participate in the organization’s cyber camps and other educational initiatives.
“As the San Diego region’s CyberPatriot Center of Excellence and Brigadier General Robert Cardenas Chapter, we applaud the CyberPatriot management and event staff for the fluid and adaptable approach to the competition this year. We know it was not easy, but also know in realm of cybersecurity, adaptability is essential. Congratulations to the Bernie and his team!” said Dick Jefferys, Chapter President.
In addition to raising awareness about the importance of cybersecurity, CyberPatriot also opens the door to cybersecurity careers, creating a K-12 pathway that extends to college or directly into the workforce. The organization’s camps and competitions also reach elementary and middle school students, and even senior citizens, to raise awareness about cybersecurity.
“It isn’t embellishing at all to say that CyberPatriot is all over the cyber education landscape,” Skoch said.
The yearlong CyberPatriot competition typically culminates in the nationwide finals, held each April in Baltimore. This year’s event had to be moved online in a matter of weeks as COVID-19 swept the country. Skoch said the quick transition to a remote competition is one of his proudest moments as CyberPatriot Commissioner.
“It was an amazing example of what remarkable people I am privileged to work with,” Skoch said. “I reflect every day on the brilliant work of those around me, and it’s them and their achievements that make me most proud.”
Skoch comes from an Air Force family and has always been interested in technology, drawing early inspiration from listening to Sputnik on his father’s shortwave radio. These days, he’s inspired by the need to build a strong cybersecurity workforce and the opportunity to work with smart, energetic teammates at the Air Force Association.
“I know in my heart that this is important work to our nation and we can’t remain globally competitive without a robust cyber workforce,” Skoch said. “Through CyberPatriot, we can offer students of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests a path to a bright future and a rewarding career.”
CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future. The program holds an annual nationwide cyber competition, along with cyber camps and other educational initiatives.
SynED’s CyberHero’s series, which highlights cyber heroes who quietly go above and beyond in helping to secure our nation and communities, is a monthly column published nationally. SynED is a non-profit organization that acts as a catalyst to help colleges and other higher education partners equip students with the skills they need to enrich their lives through education, knowledge, and skill acquisition, giving them rich career opportunities. SynED also maintains a community for CTE professionals at Cyber-Guild.org®.