Basha High offering jump-start cybersecurity courses - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Basha High offering jump-start cybersecurity courses

August 6th, 2019 development
Basha High offering jump-start cybersecurity courses

By Kevin Reagan

Staff Writer


Basha High School students now have the opportunity to prepare for a career in the burgeoning field of cybersecurity. 

Students will be enrolling in new elective courses this school year that teach them how to navigate computer networks, stop security breaches and think like a hacker. 

Principal David Loutzenheiser said the program is intended to serve as a pipeline for students wishing to pursue careers in the tech industry.

“We believe there is a huge need,” he said, referencing the local tech companies looking for employees certified in cybersecurity. 

Employment in the cybersecurity field is projected to grow by 28 percent in the next seven years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as corporations and government agencies scramble to prevent hackers from stealing their information. 

According to CyberSeek, there were more than 7,800 job openings in Arizona for cybersecurity careers as of August 2018. 

It’s considered a complicated field of study, requiring years of technical education and training. So, Chandler Unified officials want to give its students a head-start. 

High schools throughout the country have been trying to fill this labor gap for the last few years by introducing hands-on cybersecurity courses in the classroom.

Loutzenheiser said Basha’s Cybersecurity Academy will make his school stand out in central Arizona by introducing a program that’s targeted to a specific industry.

 The district invested resources to build a separate facility on campus that would house multiple classrooms and a computer network that’s disconnected from the rest of the school. 

Fifty students will initially be accepted into the program during its first year before opening it up to more students in the following years.

 Loutzenheiser said the school’s placing few requirements on students for enrolling.

“This can be for anyone,” he added. “You don’t have to be the typical straight-A student.” 

The Chandler Unified School District partnered with The University of Arizona and Chandler-Gilbert Community College to offer the new cybersecurity curriculum. Instructors will require special expertise and training to teach the college-level courses in a high school setting. 

Basha students could potentially earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate high school and land internships at local tech firms. 

“The demand is absolutely there,” said Tom Pearson, chair of CGCC’s Business and Computing Studies Division.

The sooner students can start learning about cybersecurity, Pearson said, the sooner they can secure jobs in an industry that’s suffering from a severe labor shortage. 

Students seeking a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity can take a majority of their credits at Chandler’s community college before transitioning to UA.  

This arrangement helps students and parents save money on tuition, Pearson added, since community college courses are much cheaper than a four-year university. 

The University of Arizona is one of 21 colleges in the country to be accredited by the National Security Agency for meeting a high level of academic rigor in cyber technology. 

When the university decided to bring its cyber operations program to its Chandler campus last year, it was meant to serve an educational need in the local community, according to Sarai Alvarado, site coordinator for the UA Chandler campus.  

“We strategically are placing ourselves in communities that make sense for what we offer,” Alvarado said. “And we know Chandler is really a city of innovation and technology, so it just made sense to have a partnership here.”  

Many current students in the university’s cyber program didn’t come from a technological background, Alvarado added, so getting high school students in Chandler to get these cyber skills early on will benefit them in the long-end. 

And city officials are supportive of maintaining educational partnerships that will continue to make Chandler attractive to new companies. 

“Chandler’s skilled workforce has been the major driver behind the tech sector growth we have experienced over the years,” said Mayor Kevin Hartke in a statement. “We are thrilled that The University of Arizona is helping to develop the next generation of tech workers in Chandler.”