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The Louisiana-backed range will provide hands-on training for K-12 students nationwide and help fill the cyber workforce pipeline.
To inspire the next generation of cyber talent, K-12 teachers and students across the United States can now access a cybersecurity practice “range” featuring hands-on training and other educational materials.
The Cyber Innovation Center’s (CIC) CYBER.ORG Range, funded by $2 million from Louisiana, uses real-world tools to help educate students about cyberattacks and learn how to defend against them.
In a protected, virtual environment, students can see how systems react to malware, viruses and the attachments found on phishing emails in an effort that CIC Vice President Kevin Nolten said is akin to a “chemistry lab.”
The range will give students hands-on experience and “start closing those job gaps that we have in our country,” Nolten said during a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday in Bossier, Louisiana.
The range opens as state and local leaders continue to wrestle with filling record numbers of open cybersecurity jobs. An estimate from CyberSeek, an initiative backed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, found there are more than 750,000 open cybersecurity jobs in the United States, with vacancies highest in more than a half-dozen states.
Given the threats that governments at all levels face from foreign and domestic hackers, officials have said it is imperative to get more young people interested in cybersecurity, both as the jobs are high paying but also to keep the nation secure.
“These kinds of jobs are going to drive the economy,” CIC President Craig Spohn said. “Beyond that, they’re going to drive the ability of the nation to secure its cyber borders.”
The range will scale nationwide thanks to support from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Cybersecurity Training and Assistance Program, which provides grants to support programs that help build a qualified and diverse pipeline of cyber talent.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, CISA Director Jen Easterly said students must start learning about cyber when they are as young as possible, and that she wants some of those touched by this program to aspire to be a “cyber firefighter” to help protect the nation’s cybersecurity.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said during separate remarks that there is an “urgent need” to fill the cyber workforce pipeline. Making this program available nationwide will help “meet the moment” and deliver more students ready to move into this sector, he said.