Sunday January 23rd, 2022 11:14AM

UNG spearheading effort to educate high schoolers on cybersecurity

By Austin Eller Anchor/Reporter

Amid a shortage in critical cybersecurity workers across the country, several key Georgia education leaders are partnering for CyberStart America in Georgia, an initiative aimed at educating high school students across the state about the industry.

The CyberStart America in Georgia initiative gives students the opportunity to learn about cyber and cybersecurity skills through a series of online games from Oct. 27, 2021, through April 27, 2022.

Lindsay Linsky, co-leader of the CyberStart Georgia Task Force and University of North Georgia associate professor of middle grades education, said high school students could be the solution for the future of cybersecurity in the United States.

“The root of the problem really is the massive cybersecurity workforce shortage,” Linsky said. “There’s like … 460,000 unfilled jobs in the US right now with 17,000 of those in Georgia alone, and it’s a major national security threat.”

UNG, the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Georgia Cyber Center and Gwinnett County Public Schools have all partnered for the initiative to solve this workforce shortage.

There are financial incentives for students and school districts who participate in the program, as well. The private sector will offer $500 cash prizes to the top 20 students in the state based on points earned on CyberStart over a six-month period. Aside from this, additional $500 awards will be given to the top six students in each of the ten school districts with the most students registered.

The ten school districts with the most students registered for CyberStart America in Georgia will also receive incentives between $5,000 and $10,000 to help with their cyber education.

Students can win scholarships through the program, on top of the $500 cash incentives from the private sector. Those who score at least 15,000 points in the game can participate in the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation competition.

In May of 2022, the Georgia Cyber Center and UNG will host an event to verify that each Georgia winner has developed the cyber skills indicated by their score in the game.

Caitlin Conneely, program manager for the Institute for Cyber Operations at UNG, said any student can get into cyber, but there are a few specific personality traits that could indicate a good fit for the industry.

“Tenacity, the willing to just keep working on a task, puzzles, and problem solving, just people who really want to learn and be engaged, and just figure things out,” Conneely said. “But these can be developed through students who are just naturally curious and naturally want to learn.”

Chris Mitchiner, executive director for the Institute of Cyber Operations at UNG, said he is excited that UNG can spearhead this project in the state and get young minds interested in the industry.

“It feels awesome … the opportunity to grow and educate young men and women,” Mitchiner said. 

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: ung, University of North Georgia, cybersecurity, cyber security, Cyber
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