Bank of America begins training high schoolers to be cybersecurity experts

Bank of America begins training high schoolers to be cybersecurity experts

Banks are facing A dearth of cybersecurity expertsso Bank of America is working with the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, to nurture new talent through educational programs in high schools.

“Simply put, there’s just more STEM jobs than there are qualified candidates to fill them,” said Alberto Garofalo, president of Bank of America New Jersey, referring to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank’s collaboration with Liberty Science Center “is an opportunity to really address that, but address that in a way that allows us to create a diverse pipeline of exciting students that can be successful in really STEM careers,” Garofalo said.

Liberty Science Center campus in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Liberty Science Center

And students who complete the program and meet certain employment criteria will be extended job offers by Bank of America for positions related to emerging technologies.

The bank has a longstanding partnership with the not-for-profit learning center. The two organizations are launching a two-year pilot called High Schools of the Future, which they built over the course of 18 months with the input of educators, industry experts on job training and analysts who focus on workforce trends. The pilot will run with James J. Ferris High School in Jersey City and Memorial High School (MHS) in West New York, which were selected based on the diversity of their student body composition and passion for STEM education.

The project will operate classes through an afterschool program taught by a combination of subject matter experts and teachers trained in the curriculum already employed by the participating schools. Roughly 20 to 30 students at each school will sit in on classes.

“This is really about creating an ultimate path for them to pursue an opportunity that they otherwise may not have had an opportunity to do given the high-risk nature of where they’re going to school,” meaning that and other financial pressures put them at risk of dropping out, Garofalo said.

Banks and other financial institutions are addressing the heightened emphasis on cybersecurity and other technological needs that arose from the shift to remote work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But many are faced with a growing disparity in the availability of qualified experts — the US has only enough cybersecurity workers to fill 68% of open positionsaccording to Cyberseek, an initiative of the US National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education and private partners.

Paul Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Liberty Science Center, explained that cybersecurity skills are among the most versatile of STEM disciplines. “A student’s interests may change, but the kind of life [skills]workplace skills and STEM skills that we’ll be teaching them are relevant to so many areas,” he said.

The next step for the program will be to determine how to bring it to other regions, Hoffman said.

“We … want to create a program that can scale to other high schools, not just in the state, but potentially around the country, so we’re cognizant of the fact that whatever we set up needs to work for those students as well as for their employer, in this case Bank of America,” Hoffman said.

Recent data projections from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that jobs for information security analysts will rise by 33% between 2020 and 2030, adding more than 47,000 new positions.

This trend is driven in part by the growth of remote work environments — and the need to properly secure them — that took place during the coronavirus pandemic.

“COVID-19 indirectly made cybersecurity a nationwide topic of importance, and so many companies noticed that they need cybersecurity people,” said Ahmad Zoua, director of network IT and infrastructure for the global technology consulting firm Guidepost Solutions. “Cybersecurity is one of the few skills that, academic-wise, you really want to have more hands on as early as possible for people to get into it.”

The schools that are gearing up for the program’s initial run are hoping that students from underrepresented communities who struggle with employment post-graduation will benefit from the added classes and the chance to put the learned skills to work at Bank of America and other potential employers.

“The majority of my students do not have the chance to attend college once they leave here. … Some may attend a three-year program, but usually after high school, this is it,” said Deneen M. Alford, principal of Ferris High School. “This [collaboration] is something I am excited about because this is just something the majority of my students never even had the opportunity to explore, weren’t aware of cybersecurity or thought they weren’t able to do such jobs.”

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