The California Mayors Cyber Cup competition is over, but the work of Team California to educate the next generation of cybersecurity professionals is just beginning.
Over the next year, parents, educators, employers, employees, and leaders from business and government will work together to create 1000 new middle and high school cyber competition teams by 2020. It’s an ambitious goal but one that can be achieved through statewide cooperation.
The momentum for Team California began at the California Mayors Cyber Cup, which was held February 23 in 12 regions across the state. Californiais already a leader in cybersecurity competitions, but there’s the potential to do so much more.
Cybersecurity jobs provide a pathway to a secure and high-paying career that can’t outsourced. The goal of the Team California initiative is to bring cybersecurity awareness and education into communities across the state in the same way youth soccer or little league baseball became common generations ago.
“It is important to remember that little things, like stepping up to support a team or volunteering at competitions, can change the trajectory of a young person’s life. This has the potential to influence our future in ways we cannot imagine,” said Scott Young, director of the California Cyberhub, which organizes the California Mayors Cyber Cup and related efforts. “We are serving our communities and our youth by providing them with the tools they need to be successful. Everyone is important and every little thing they do does matter!”
Kimberly Pease, who was named Cybersecurity Professional of the Year by the Los Angeles Business Journal, said she sees programs like the California Mayors Cyber Cup as a way to strengthen the bonds that are needed for Team California to thrive.
She plans to keep her company, Citadel Information Group at the forefront of cybersecurity education moving forward.
“I am inspired by the dedication and enthusiasm to support cybersecurity and our future cyber guardians,” Pease said. “I was in awe of the teachers who devote their lives to our kids, students, and young adults to make the world a better place, especially as it relates to cyber. And most of all, I was inspired by the engaging students. They hopefully will find their passion somewhere inside a cyber security career and be phenomenal cyber citizens”
At the high school level, teachers spend countless hours preparing students for cyber competitions in addition to their full day of teaching. Districts like the Los Angeles Unified School District also provide computers for students to use and arrange transportation to and from competitions.
“LAUSD provided some laptops to students so that every member of the team could have a machine either to play or do research, said Carey Peck of LAUSD’s Beyond the Bell program. “We provided transportation for about 75 percent of our students who participated.
But, it’s not enough to have cybersecurity education in schools. In order to truly make a difference in students’ lives and meet the workforce demand, the community needs to be involved. Many of the new cyber competition teams created in the next year will be in partnership with the Girl Scouts of California and Boys and Girls Clubs after school programs.
“Building support for cybersecurity competition at the community level embeds awareness of cybersecurity hygiene in the community culture,” Young said. “We have millions of parents in California who can make great coaches. Given the chance, kids participating in cyber team competitions will teach themselves and their coaches about cybersecurity.”
Some of the top CyberPatriot teams in the nation are coached by a former band director Northrup Grumman engineer and dedicated high school teacher none of whom are experienced cybersecurity professionals.
“99 percent of what I know about teaching cybersecurity, I didn’t know when I started,” said Jay Gehringer, coach of the award-winning cyber teams at North Hollywood high school. “I took Cisco courses, did a lot of research online, talked to kids who had figured things out and got some help from other instructors along the way.”
Allen Stubblefield, a cyber coach at Troy High School, said California already has the resources necessary to become an even stronger cyber powerhouse and a model that the rest of the country can follow.
“Every state has great students, but California has many schools with the right combination of computer resources, passionate coaches and supportive administrators,” Stubblefield said. “New students are welcomed, and we try hard not to say ‘no’ to students who want to try this for the first time.”
Team California can only grow if students can teach each other along the way, freeing up coaches to work on bringing new students into the cyber world. This model is already well underway among the CyberAegis group in San Diego, according to coach Paul Johnson.
“I’m very fortunate to have such a sharp, determined group of high achievers,” Johnson said. “Every year all of the thousands of teams get better, and there are some teams who have been competing for many years. We keep improving our training and trying to stay on the leading edge of where vulnerabilities will be hidden next.”
In the end, teamwork across communities, industries and organizations will drive Team California’s success and make the goal of adding 1000 cyber teams across the state a reality.
“The technology community is one community,” said Amy Tong, California’s Chief Technology Officer and Director of the California Department of Technology. “You do not need to have the title of a public servant to help protect the public’s assets.”