Taft IT Launches New Cybersecurity Training Program with Belcan

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Students at Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School have a new opportunity to pursue well-paying technical careers as certified cybersecurity experts immediately after graduating high school.

Students at Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School have a new opportunity to become cybersecurity experts. Photo courtesy: Keeling Photography

Cincinnati Public Schools has partnered with Belcan, a global engineering and technical staffing firm, as well as ComSpark Tech Innovation Summit and Lead Tribune Media Group to create a curriculum tailor-made for Taft IT students who have demonstrated high aptitude and interest in cybersecurity.

“This has to be one of our coolest programs,” said CPS Superintendent Laura Mitchell at the program launch event on April 11, 2018. “So many tech jobs go unfilled and we are living in an increasingly online environment. CPS should have a key role in the cybersecurity space, and we can do that through training the next generation of cybersecurity experts.”

As online technologies continue to evolve and cyber crime becomes more sophisticated in method and approach, cybersecurity is rapidly becoming a global priority and emerging industry. The new curriculum, Cyber Security Academy, will be the first of its kind, not only within CPS, but in the Cincinnati region.

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“Students, we want to make sure that when you graduate, your talents have been developed and interests cultivated so you can take care of yourself and make your families proud,” Mitchell told students. “We are part of the succession planning for Cincinnati’s workforce, and I’m proud to be among the future cyber guardians of our region.”

Students can start the program as sophomores and advance through different courses as juniors and seniors. Courses will guide students as they become more familiar with computer terminals and learn various programming languages and command prompts. Students will be able to master cryptography through encoding and decoding exercises and test their skills in Pico.CTF, which is a virtual “capture the flag” competition program designed specifically for high school learners.

As juniors and seniors, students in the program will take CompTIA and network security courses that will prepare them for certification exams.

“This will be a challenging program, but we really want to make it fun and rewarding,” said Terry Williams, Belcan’s Chief Technology Officer who has played an instrumental role in creating the curriculum. “These students will have a two- and three-year head start in this industry.”

As juniors and seniors, students in the program will take CompTIA and network security courses that will prepare them for certification exams.

So what do the students think?

“It’s difficult work, but once you try it you get the hang of it,” said one ninth-grade student who will enter the program as a sophomore.

“This program will help me begin my career right after graduation. I feel really lucky and am thankful to Principal Turner, Erin Heinrich, Sarah Trimble-Oliver and Superintendent Mitchell,” said Dylan, ninth-grade student, at the launch event.

“I feel blessed,” said Keirra, another student.

Read more from WVXU and keep up with Taft High School at taftiths.cps-k12.org.

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