Taft IT High School is launching what Cincinnati Public Schools believes is the first-in-the-country cybersecurity certificate program.
Taft is partnering with technical staffing service Belcan on the curriculum. Chief Information Officer Terry Williams tells students they're enrolling in something unique. "You have an opportunity to do something that no other students in the U.S. are doing right now," he says. "You're getting a head start on a career that is in really high demand. There are over 350,000 to a million job openings for cybersecurity specialists around the world."
Belcan and the school say students will be ready to go into jobs paying $50-60,000 per year directly out of high school.
Everyone agrees the three-year program will be challenging, especially given the rapidly changing nature of internet and online security. Most of the students are starting the program as ninth or tenth graders.
Williams says other schools have shown interest in launching a similar program but the company wanted to get Taft's up and running before expanding.
Superintendent Laura Mitchell says the program is a good fit for Taft. "We have online billing, we file our taxes online, we connect with friends and family online, so it just makes sense that we have cybersecurity... at an IT school."
Lead Magazine CEO Steve Wannamaker tells students they're getting a leg up on the competition. "You're getting an education and you'll have opportunities that you would usually have to go to a four-year college to participate in. When you graduate from high school, you'll have an incredibly marketable skill where you'll be able to get a job in one of the leading companies in our city."
Keirra Wilson and Dylan Britten are both in the ninth grade and enrolling in the certificate program. Britten says he's honored to be in the program and has always wanted to study information technology. "I left a private school last year in hopes of becoming an IT professional in the future."
Wilson is equally excited about the challenge. "I've always wanted to have a career in information technology... I look forward to becoming an expert in cybersecurity so I can have the life that I have always dreamed of. I know that I work tough and have demonstrated perseverance, and I'm lucky to have this opportunity."