PINCKNEY, Mich. (AP) – Pinckney Community Schools is the first school district in the nation to create an institute aimed at addressing the rising need for people certified to address cyber crime.
Gov. Rick Snyder issued a video message during the grand opening of PCS Pinckney Cyber Training Institute and Sentinel Center.
“Cyber-attacks happen more than we know, so I’d like to thank Pinckney Community Schools for developing this hands-on cyber institute for students, business professionals and the community,” Snyder said.
The institute will provide educational and certification opportunities for high school and college students, as well as tech professionals, the Livingston Daily Press & Argus reported.
Students and professionals who enroll in the institute will be able to take cyber security courses, earn state-approved certifications and engage in cyber security training exercises. Although each Michigan cyber security classroom – also known as a hub – offers 22 professional certifications, the institute is the first hub to be located at a high school, said Jennifer Tisdale, cyber security manager for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The program will allow students to earn college credits and provide access to early internship opportunities.
“The development of the Pinckney Cyber Training Institute is just one way we’re dedicating resources to educating people in cyber defense and subsequently protecting our citizens, infrastructure and economy,” said Steve Arwood, MEDC chief executive officer. “From smartphones to connected and automated vehicles, our world is relying more and more on advanced technologies, and these initiatives are developing the talent and skills needed to prevent cyber attacks.”
Merit Network announced a partnership between Pinckney Community High School and Wayne State University last summer to establish two new hubs at the high school. The Pinckney district drew the attention of the Department of Defense when a group of students were involved in a Cyber Patriot Competition last year. The Cyber Patriot cyber security team formed two years ago to learn about “operating systems, network systems and how to prevent any unwanted attacks,” said Cyndi Millns, a Pinckney High School teacher who teaches a computer networking and security class.
Adam Flickema was one of the students who helped start the team.
“At first my friend Jacob and I joined it for fun, but then we grew to really love it,” said Flickema, who now attends Eastern Michigan University. “The second year we ended up taking the team to nationals and won, and now I am going to school for cyber security, which is great. And to see how big of a deal cyber security is now at Pinckney is mind-blowing. I hope all students take advantage of this institute because I wish I could go back in time and participate.”
Pinckney Supt. Rick Todd said the institute is a great opportunity not only for the students, but also for the surrounding communities and businesses. The institute will expand the current technology and cyber security education by providing realistic, hands-on cyber security training for students through classes and exercises.
“It also enables product development and testing for clients and has working relationships with multiple entities, including the MEDC and the Michigan National Guard,” Tisdale said. “There is something for everyone here.”
Merit Network was a recipient of an Advance Michigan Defense Collaborative grant to establish the institute and recently conducted a request for proposals to select two locations within a 13-county region of southeast Michigan, Todd said.
This project was funded through a school bond that is used specifically for similar endeavors. The main purpose for this institute is to eventually grow the program through partnerships and higher educational institutions, Todd said.
“Qualified cyber security professionals are quickly becoming some of the most sought-after people in the tech sector,” Arwood said. “From private industry to military and all levels of government, the demand for candidates who are certified means expanding educational opportunities like those offered at Pinckney Schools to help ensure that Michigan is producing top talent.”
Pinckney High School senior Joe Mayo can’t believe how “big of a deal” cyber security has become.
“I’m just shocked to see the growth in this program since I started here four years ago,” Mayo said, who is part of the Cyber Patriot team. “It went from nothing to one of the top programs Pinckney will be known for. I am proud of my school.”