CyberCamp aims to teach Nevada County students cyber security skills

By Emily Lavin, The Union

The Air Force Association CyberCamp is coming to Nevada County to give local students a crash course in cyber security.

The camp will take place July 13-15 at Sierra College’s Nevada County campus, and is open to students who will be enrolled in grades 7-12 during the 2016-17 school year. There is no cost for the camp, and breakfast, lunch and snacks are included. The camp is geared toward students with little or no experience in cyber security; interested participants can sign up at bit.ly/Summer2016CyberCamps.

Space is limited to 25 students, though more spots may be added in response to increased demand.

Over the camp’s three days, students will learn the fundamentals of cyber security, including system hardening, access control and system protection. They’ll also learn about cyber ethics and be introduced to various careers in the field. On the final day of camp, students will participate in a team competition that will allow them to put some of their newly-learned skills to the test.

The camp is taught by a community college professor, who will be assisted by a local middle or high school teacher.

CyberCamps are one of three programs run by the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Education Program, which the organization founded in 2009 to inspire students to pursue careers in cyber security and in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields. The national education program also includes an initiative geared toward elementary school students, as well as a cyber security competition program for middle and high school students.

The CyberCamp program debuted in the summer of 2015 at 24 different schools or organizations. That includes five camps at each of the four Los Rios Community College District campuses, and a fifth camp at the Sierra College Rocklin Campus, said Steve Linthicum, a professor at Sierra College.

Linthicum coordinates the area CyberCamps in his role as greater Sacramento’s deputy sector navigator in information and communication technologies under the California Community College Chancellor’s “Doing What Matters” initiative.

The initiative, which funds the local CyberCamp programs, in part focuses on creating pathways toward high wage, in-demand jobs, Linthicum said.

After the success of last year’s camps, Linthicum wanted to expand the program to include some of the region’s more rural areas; in addition to the Grass Valley camp, there will be two CyberCamps held this summer in Truckee, he said.

In order to bring the camp to the Sierra College Nevada County campus, Linthicum fist connected with Stephanie Ortiz, the campus’s dean, telling her, “I think this would be a great thing for Nevada County.”

Ortiz asked Linthicum to present the idea to the members of the county Economic Resource Council’s talent connection committee, which she co-chairs; the committee was formed to look at ways to recruit and retain technology and digital media talent to the area, as well as to create pathways for local students to develop workforce-ready technology skills.

Michael Freedman, a member of the talent connection committee who is helping coordinate the CyberCamp locally, said the program teaches students valuable skills that can help prepare them for what could be a potentially lucrative career.

Getting behind the camp was a “no-brainer” for the ERC task force.

“It was a win-win,” Freedman said.

Exposing students to the fundamentals of cyber security opens up a door to a profession that’s understaffed — partly because the United States hasn’t made cyber security a priority in the past and is struggling to catch up, Linthicum said.

“Limited supply and overwhelming demand,” Linthicum said. “That’s the current state of jobs in cyber security.”

If students become interested in the industry and develop their skills from a young age, they make themselves leading candidates for a career that will allow them to earn high wages and work from any location that has a speedy internet connection, Linthicum said.

And the Air Force Association’s CyberCamp can be the first step on that career path; when students hone cyber security skills during middle and high school, “they can go out right away and get a job,” even as they’re pursuing a higher education degree at a community college or four-year university, Linthicum said. For more information on the Air Force Association CyberCamp, visit www.uscyberpatriot.org.