Portland tech school to launch cybersecurity curriculum

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PORTLAND — Portland Arts and Technology High School will be the first career and technical school in the state to offer its students training in cybersecurity.

The goal, according to Kevin Stilphen, director at PATHS, is for students to learn the “principles of risk management, security architecture, incident handling, disaster recovery, and secure systems administration,” among other skills.

The new program will be open to students starting with the 2019-2020 academic year, Stilphen said. The plan is to initially offer enrollment for up to 30 students.

If more students apply than PATHS has slots for, he said, “We will work with our sending schools to determine which students are the best fit for the program.” He also said students could request to be placed on a waiting list, if necessary.

Stilphen said having coding experience is not necessary, but the new cybersecurity program “will have a strong foundation in science and algebra, so students should be comfortable working and applying concepts from these academic disciplines.”

PATHS is open to students from Portland, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Scarborough, South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Westbrook, Gorham and Windham, as well as Greely, Bonny Eagle and Gray-New Gloucester high schools.

Students interested in touring PATHS should make an appointment with Rebecca Davis at 874-8165 or davisr@portlandschools.org.

Along with basic cybersecurity instruction, Stilphen said students enrolled in the new program would also learn the rudiments of computer hardware repair and maintenance and the installation of network hardware.

They will also be introduced “to basic security principles involving networks and operating systems, including current threats and vulnerabilities” and learn how electronic commerce operates and is governed.

“The internet is an integral part of life in the modern world,” Stilphen added. “From communicating via email and instant messaging, to traveling, banking and shopping, nearly every aspect of our life revolves around the cyber world.”

And because the internet is so widely used, “protecting vital information (has become) a necessity to preserve our personal, economic and national security.” That’s one reason the PATHS board was so eager to offer a cybersecurity program, he said.

In addition, Stilphen said the overriding mission at PATHS is to offer students the opportunity to learn skills “in industries that have robust and growing employment possibilities.”

And cybersecurity is definitely one of those fields.

There’s a “high demand for cybersecurity workers,” said Stilphen. “By the end of next year, it’s predicted that 1 to 2 million cybersecurity jobs will remain unfilled (with) about 6 million cybersecurity analysts needed” overall.

Along with needed job skills, the cybersecurity program would also make students eligible to take a variety of certification exams, from the Cisco Certified Entry Network Associate to the Security Certified Network Professional test.

According to Stilphen, PATHS has not had an information technology program since the early 2000s, but research “revealed a high level of interest in a cybersecurity program among our sending school students.”

Jeanne Crocker, assistant superintendent for the Portland Public Schools, said it’s important for the district “that PATHS offerings evolve to match workforce needs and student interests (and) cybersecurity fits the bill perfectly.”

“(It’s) a new and burgeoning field with almost endless career opportunities in Maine, the country and the world,” she added.

Crocker said PATHS works to “provide opportunities for students to acquire the 21st century academic, creative, and technical skills needed for entry into the global workforce.”

“The mission of the Portland Public Schools is to ensure a challenging, relevant, and joyful education that empowers every learner to make a difference in the world,” she said. “This program is a perfect fit for both missions.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Portland Arts and Technology High School will be the first in the state to offer a cybersecurity program starting with the 2019-2020 academic year

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