(ANNAPOLIS – January 28, 2018) – Governor Larry Hogan announced Wednesday Maryland’s participation in an innovative cybersecurity training partnership with the SANS Institute, the largest provider of cybersecurity training and certification to professionals at governments and commercial institutions worldwide. This partnership will inspire the next generation of cybersecurity professionals and identify talented youth in Maryland. Open to female high school students, the GirlsGoCyberStart initiative encourages participants to explore their interests in cyber studies, learn core cybersecurity skills, and build confidence in problem-solving.
“Our administration is committed to ensuring Maryland’s young women have access to the resources they need to pursue exciting careers in STEM fields,” said Governor Hogan. “Initiatives like GirlsGoCyberStart engage our students and ensure that the next generation of Maryland women will become innovators and leaders in the 21st century workforce.”
This announcement follows the governor’s ACCESS Initiative (Achievement Computer Science Collaborations for Employing Students Statewide), a comprehensive computer science education and workforce development plan, which was announced last year. Earlier this month, Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford attended a meeting of the Girls Who Code Club and delivered remarks at the Society of Women Engineers, Baltimore-Washington Section Rube Goldberg Competition, an event where students compete to design a machine that uses the most complex process to complete a simple task.
GirlsGoCyberStart is a free online game open to all female students in grades 9 through 12, regardless of their prior knowledge or experience with cybersecurity and information technology. Playing alone or in teams, participants solve challenges to gain points and advance levels, earning prizes along the way. In addition to individual prizes, such as trips, gift certificates, and computers, the three in-state schools with the most participants will win monetary prizes.
Last year, the SANS Institute launched CyberStart, a program that enabled participants to explore their aptitude for cybersecurity. Though thousands of students participated in the program, SANS discovered a notable deficit in the number of participating females: only 5 percent of the first-round participants were young women. The GirlsGoCyberStart initiative is the direct result of that discovery and will specifically engage female high school students.
“Women are underrepresented in the STEM fields,” said Labor Secretary Kelly M. Schulz. “We must empower our young women to take an active interest in STEM, and creative initiatives like GirlsGoCyberStart help us achieve that. Through innovative programs and outreach, we can reverse the statistics and grow female participation in cybersecurity and technology.”
The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) will collaborate to encourage young women to register and participate in this exciting opportunity.
“Creating a talented and diverse pipeline of female students with computer science expertise is critical to Maryland’s economic future,” said Dr. Karen Salmon, state superintendent of schools. “We offer career and technology education programs to help young women learn about cybersecurity, gain experience from internships, and prepare for rewarding careers vital to our national security.”
“The nation desperately needs more highly-skilled cyber professionals, and we have evidence that CyberStart improves the quality and preparation of people entering the cybersecurity field,” SANS Director of Research Alan Paller said. “Women are significantly underrepresented in the technical side of cybersecurity. By opening CyberStart to thousands of girls in high school, we hope to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field.”
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