Friday, May 17, 2024

Free cybersecurity camps can lead high schoolers on career path 

by BIZ Magazine

SHREVEPORT – High school students could potentially start on their future career path this summer by participating in one of three cybersecurity camps at LSUS. 

Students can experience the cybersecurity world in one of three different camps – Intro to Cyberspace and Cybersecurity, Intro to Network Security, or Intro to Cybersecurity Awareness. 

“These camps are a great way for students to get a big picture of the cybersecurity world,” said Dr. Roger Zhao, an LSUS professor in the computer science department. “We’ll explore a lot of different topics in a broad way so students can be introduced to a lot different areas. 

“If we can get kids to touch the field as early as possible, then maybe they’ll be interested in growing in those areas.” 

All three camps last seven weeks and begin June 5. The camps run from 9 a.m.-noon on Monday-Friday for the seven weeks. Students can register before the May 30 deadline at https://bit.ly/43Q3Mkv 

Students must be entering the ninth, 10th or 11th grades this coming school year to be eligible. 

The camps involve typical classroom activities like readings and quizzes along with cybersecurity-related games and projects. 

More than 40 students have already registered for the camps. 

“Lots of kids are interested in cybersecurity, but there aren’t really opportunities for them to touch or get a taste of real cybersecurity knowledge,” Zhao said. “Hopefully these camps will steer students to consider cybersecurity as a career, but even if they don’t, there are other benefits. 

“We try to teach the kids to use their personal devices correctly and have awareness of what they’re using. You never know who is on the other side of whatever website or app you might be using, and we’ll be teaching practical skills on how students interact with the internet.” 

With the majority of Americans and a growing number of people around the world having Internet access, cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing job fields. 

The cybersecurity industry is expected to grow by 33 percent from 2020 to 2030, four times faster than the average employment growth rate of all occupations nationwide, according to a 2022 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report. The median salary for information security analysts is $102,600. 

LSUS offers a cybersecurity and networking concentration as part of its computer science bachelor and master degree programs, and the cybersecurity camps are a recruiting tool for students interested in pursuing a career in the field. 

“Two or three years ago, software development was our top concentration in the computer science department,” Zhao said. “Now cybersecurity is the fastest-growing concentration we have, and it’s just as big as software development.” 

The camp is free thanks to funding from the state. 

“When we talk about our future and the future of our students, we want to open opportunities for kids to learn about cybersecurity,” said Dr. Julie Lessiter, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives at LSUS. “These camps can prepare students for college cybersecurity programs, one of the fastest growing careers in the country.” 

In addition to LSUS’s concentration in cybersecurity, students will be able to get real-world experience on campus. 

LSUS will be opening a security operations center (SOC) on campus with students working alongside information technology professionals in protecting the university’s networks. The soft launch is planned for this summer. 

“Most employers want students to have hands-on, real-world skills when they graduate,” Zhao said. “The SOC gives students an opportunity to use what they are learning in class. 

“While there are projects and activities in class, the SOC prepares students to handle real-world data in real time.” 

Lessiter echoed that sentiment, noting that there’s a shortage of trained cybersecurity professionals. 

“Many entry-level jobs are looking for three years of experiences and certain certifications,” Lessiter said. “The SOC is a way for us to close that gap as students are learning in an environment that will teach them all the key skills and software they’ll need on the job. 

“They are identifying what’s a threat and what’s not a threat in real time.” 

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