Popular cybersecurity training courses brought online to prepare Michigan high school students for I.T. careers

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This article was published in The Livingston Post on Aug. 5, 2019. You can read the article here.

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 for Michigan students, professional development for educators and is the parent organization of the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute®. As a nonprofit organization with more than 20 years of experience, Michigan Virtual is Michigan’s leading voice in online education. Visit us at michiganvirtual.org.

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Limited Course Capacity

We’re sorry to inform you that we have reached capacity for several of our Semester 1 and Trimester 1 courses. You’ll notice when attempting to enroll students in our Student Learning Portal that some courses are unavailable. While we are no longer accepting new enrollments for these courses at this time, many courses continue to remain open for enrollment.

With many students across the state 100% remote, demand for our online courses is greater than ever before. Because every course we offer is taught by a Michigan-certified teacher, this high volume of enrollments has created capacity issues for our teachers who provide each and every student with individual feedback.

While the Michigan Virtual team anticipated and planned for significant increases in student enrollments this Fall, the increased demand we’ve experienced has been unprecedented. As a result, we are taking steps to hire even more part-and full-time teachers to support larger numbers of student enrollments for Semester 2 as well as for Trimester 2 and 3. 

For schools that still need online learning options this year, please fill out the form at the bottom of our virtual pathways page to meet with someone to discuss other solutions. While some of our teacher-led courses are full, we may still have the capacity to help you in upcoming terms or can discuss timing to implement a whole-school or collaborative program in which local teachers from your school/district use our online course content to teach students. We also have free course content and resources available for you to use.

We know this is an incredibly stressful time for all, and we’re sorry if the courses you’re looking for are unavailable. We never want to turn away a student who wants to learn from us. Our top concern, however, is student success, and we have a policy to not take on additional enrollments if we cannot guarantee that all students will have a quality online learning experience. 

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate the unusually high volume of enrollments we are receiving.