When it comes to careers in science, technology, mathematics and technology, you must get students in the pipeline early, according to Idaho National Laboratory (INL), which is trying to do just that with its fifth year of cyber summer camps. There are over a million unfilled cybersecurity jobs across the country, as Sin Ming Loo, a professor with Boise State University, pointed out prior to the camps’ July launch. And the local need is broad, such as in Magic Valley where IT jobs in manufacturing and food processing — to name just a few areas — are growing, according to Alex Wolford, industry program manager for College of Southern Idaho, adding “We’re trying to reach a broader audience across the board to meet that demand.”
“There’s all kinds of different ways we can leverage the community to build this ecosystem, to build this sense of where students can go,” said Eleanor Taylor, program manager for INL’s Cybercore Integration Center.
This year is seeing more students in more camps with new activities at all skill levels, Taylor highlighted, and while there are great business and educational collaborations underway, there are opportunities for more. And more are needed.
Stakeholder partners — such as Rocky Mountain Power — have provided scholarships for students to attend the camps. Industry professionals like those with Curtiss-Wright Corporation have spoken at camps, and partners can provide activities. For instance, toward the end of the camp, students get to build their own project and demonstrate what they have learned. The goal, Taylor said, is to give a well-rounded experience in many facets of cyber (beyond coding) and to inspire interest.
Loo pointed out at the collegiate level there are many opportunities across the field as well, from IT and computers to management. Some high school and college students interning with INL get a taste of that by helping put on the camps, some having been former campers themselves.
“These camps are important because we have to get their interest early on,” Loo said. “By late middle school/early high school, a lot (of students) have made up their mind about what they want to do in higher education (and maybe beyond).”
Taylor said she has similar sentiments, stating that if younger students aren’t interested early on “it doesn’t matter how much work we do at the (collegiate) level.” This year, over 60 students registered across the state at colleges and universities across the state; 20 spots were added for intro camps.
“Covid was a catalyst for us to think more broadly,” Taylor said. “We are super excited with where we’re at today. This program is really growing.”