visualization of network security

We live in an era where a single data breach can have major consequences and cause disruptions for millions of people worldwide.  As a result, the demand for cybersecurity specialists in our workforce is great. Most modern companies need a team of specialists to defend their private information from cyber attacks.

Southeast Michigan, in particular, is home to over 70 percent of North America’s automotive research and development. With the opening of the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti, Michigan has become a hub for the testing of autonomous vehicles, a new frontier needing extensive cybersecurity support.

In response to this growing demand, Pinckney Community Schools has designed a program that prepares students for career-oriented certifications in cybersecurity.  What began as an after-school club with a handful of students has evolved into the Pinckney Cyber Training Institute (PCTI) — a rigorous cybersecurity training program that garnered national attention in 2015 after several Pinckney students were flown to Washington D.C. to compete in the Cyber Patriot Competition.

Due to the success and popularity of their program, the PCTI is now partnering with Michigan Virtual to host their cybersecurity and networking training courses on a digital platform to better reach students across the state of Michigan and provide them with opportunities to earn career credentials.

Their motivation for going digital lies in the equity of access. “Maybe there’s one student in a school in the U.P. who is very interested in cybersecurity,” says Jim Darga, director of the Pinckney Cyber Training Institute. “Why should they be denied access just because  of their geographic location?”

Together, Michigan Virtual and PCTI will be offering a total of six online courses that provide high school students with learning pathways in computer networking and Linux operating systems — two crucial knowledge areas in cybersecurity — and prepare them for career-oriented certifications. To put this in perspective, the average salary for workers with these certifications is $70,000-$80,000.

These online courses meet a critical need in the state of Michigan — both in terms of preparing students for college and stimulating our state’s economy.

“Consider the pipeline for getting students into biology programs at 4-year colleges,” implores Darga. “Many high schools have biology, A.P. biology, and honors biology. But almost none of them have cybersecurity courses.  Our program is going to help build the whole ecosystem from high school all the way to college and into the professional world.”

In October 2018, IBM flew 10 of their executives from around the world into the small town of Pinckney for a visit. “They were amazed at what they saw,” says Darga. “It’s amazing to hear high ranking state officials promote Michigan to attract new business because of the quality of cybersecurity education we are providing. That’s when I realized that we need to provide more students with access.”

In partnership with Michigan Virtual, the PCTI is one step closer to its mission of equitable access. No matter their geographic location, Michigan students can now use online learning to receive a quality education in cybersecurity and take the next step toward a profitable career path that fills a critical need in our economy.

To learn more about the new online cybersecurity training courses hosted by Michigan Virtual, visit:  https://michiganvirtual.org/cybersecurity

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About Michigan Virtual – Michigan Virtual™ (formally known as Michigan Virtual University®) provides online courses and programming for Michigan students, professional development for educators and is the parent organization of the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute®. Visit at michiganvirtual.org.

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