The way Franklin High School teacher Brent Green sees it, cybersecurity means job security for his students.
That’s something he acknowledged last year as he began to plan for a course on cybersecurity to be added to the curriculum for the 2020-21 school year. Green, a College, Career and Technical Education teacher, worked with Jeremy Qualls, the CCTE director for Williamson County Schools, on logistics for introducing the course.
“We saw there was a Tennessee-approved cybersecurity program, so we started looking at it,” Green said. “I put together a whole program tailored to what my students need and what the business world needed.
“My goal is to give my students every opportunity to develop every skill they can obtain to be more employable in the field and to be able to specialize in whatever they wanted to.”
Some 75-80 students from freshmen to seniors enrolled in the cybersecurity program, which is one of only 159 similar programs in the state earn the Tennessee Pathway Certification.
The designation recognizes programs that prepare their students for college and careers by creating a seamless vertical alignment between school, postsecondary programs and career opportunities as a result of partnerships between the district, higher education institutions, and employers and community organizations, according to an article in the WCS newsletter InFocus.
“It’s a boost in that it’s the first year that we have done it,” Green said, “and to get that certification speaks highly of the department and the students and everybody’s dedication to it. it was a shock to me because usually they [certifications] don’t come that fast.”
The program is challenging. Introductory classes involve coding and learning how to problem solve, and then there are three years of cybersecurity intensity. In the final year, students take more ownership, which means a practicum course where they design their own project in relation to a business model.
“We don't sign up [just] for a course,” senior Josh Samford said. “We sign up because we care about the subject and we get to do something [meaningful].”
The future is bright for those students who complete the program and move on to their next phase. There’s a wide range of jobs within the field.
“It’s a wide-open market, highly employable,” Green said. “The other big one is data science. Everybody wants to work their data and everybody wants to protect their data. It’s a field day for me in the fact of having real world, real time examples to show this is what you’re working against, this is your job right here.
“There’s a gold mine of examples of what students have to look out for, what they predict, and try to protect against once they start.”
This program, along with Columbia State Community College, received a state grant to purchase a mobile cybersecurity unit which will travel between Franklin and Summit high schools.