“Breaking in” to the Cybersecurity Industry has been no easy task, especially for high school students, but the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation did just that. Through the Foundation’s education initiative, ElevateEdAZ, more than 100 students and externs from Phoenix Union High School District and Foundation’s Information Technology (IT) and Cybersecurity Workforce Collaboratives gained first-hand insight into high-demand cybersecurity career paths from some of the industry’s top leaders.

“This field trip underscored how the ‘real-world’ scenarios and industry experts impart an authentic relevance and meaning to the subject matter of cybersecurity and safety agencies, as opposed to the approach of a textbook in a classroom. With this exposure to actual high-tech security, investigative, and law enforcement career pathways, the students have a better understanding of the careers that they are preparing for, and the positive impact they can have on the people living in their city, state, and country.” – Stephen Andrews, Phoenix Coding Academy teacher 

Last month, ElevateEdAZ invited students to tour the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC). While at ACTIC, Arizona Department of Homeland Security Director Tim Roemer, Deputy Director Ryan Murray, Deputy Director Willis, and Major Damon Cecil spoke to students on the importance of the work students are completing in their Career and Technical Education or CTE program.

The Foundation’s Workforce and Development Manager for its IT and Cybersecurity Workforce Collaboratives, Ngan Pham, coordinated the tour to help students connect with cybersecurity professionals.

“After the tours, Director Roemer asked how we can funnel some of the externs’ and students’ resumes and cover letters to Deputy Director Murray so they can potentially find internship and job opportunities with our state’s cybersecurity team within the Department of Homeland Security. They were impressed and excited at the high quality of questions and discussions. As a workforce development manager, this is music to my ears. We set out to strengthen our cybersecurity talent pipeline by launching initiatives that connect employers directly with talent. I’m happy that the State of Arizona saw value in these tours, and I look forward to expanding on this in the future.” – Ngan Pham, Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation, Workforce and Development Manager

The Foundation’s education initiative, ElevateEdAZ, and its College and Career Coach, Kaycee O’Neill leveraged the Foundation’s longstanding relationships with local high schools to ensure students were able to participate in the tour.

“Students’ tour experience provided unparalleled, transparent access to witness cybersecurity professionals in action. Taking education beyond the classroom, experts spoke to students about how the branches of Arizona law enforcement (Arizona Department of Public Safety, Arizona Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Bureau of Investigation) work together to provide support and safety to Arizona’s and the country’s homeland security efforts.” – Kaycee O’Neill, ElevateEdAZ College, and Career Coach 

After touring ACTIC, students visited Copper State Credit Union’s operation center to learn from Paty Larious-Pulido, Vice President of Core Systems. Students toured the center and learned about the different departments and careers within Copper State. Then they participated in an interactive lesson where students had to “catch the imposter” or find a hacker who was stealing members’ private information. Copper State Credit Union staff were in on the fun and even dressed up as “imposters” to add to the experience. Each student was assigned an agent’s name and was given the mission to locate the hacker from the employees listed on the wall. Students learned valuable lessons on protecting personal information.

“The Copper State tour was important as well, with a former graduate of PUHSD presenting a hands-on scenario where students played detectives as they watched videos for clues and were given purses and backpacks with various items to determine where security breaches may have occurred. They all enjoyed the “escape room” type problems which were fun and informative.”  – Stephen Andrews, Phoenix Coding Academy teacher

With a sense of passion and eagerness, students and externs asked questions on both tours with the hopes of learning more about future career paths.

“They asked technical questions but also how to persist in an industry where you’re bound to fail many times. Students learned about career pathways and were encouraged to find an entry-level Security Operations Center analyst role.”’ – Ngan Pham, Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation, Workforce, and Development Manager 

Students left the tours with a better sense of safe security practices and an understanding of different cybersecurity career paths in Arizona’s law enforcement.

About ElevateEdAZ

The Foundation’s education initiative, ElevateEdAZ prepares individuals for college and career through stronger alignment between education, business, and the community.

ElevateEdAZ is focused on increasing the number of students completing high-quality education to workforce learning pathways that align with the needs of industry. This includes working with education partners to support students in completing industry-recognized credentials, attaining early post-secondary credit, and participating in capstone work-based learning experiences, such as internships and pre-apprenticeships. In addition, ElevateEdAZ supports educator professional development by partnering to provide externship experiences for teachers and counselors.

Posted by Annelise Patterson