LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer encouraged young women in Michigan high schools last week to explore their aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science through the 2019 Girls Go CyberStart program.
“Michigan has long been a leader in innovation that changes the world,” Whitmer said. “To maintain our leadership and meet tomorrow’s challenges requires us to develop a skilled cybersecurity workforce that can help protect our state’s and the nation’s most critical assets. We’re excited to partner with SANS and to offer this opportunity for high school girls to discover and foster a passion for innovation and cybersecurity.”
Participants use the CyberStart Game, an online series of challenges that allow students to act as cyber protection agents to solve cybersecurity-related puzzles and explore relevant topics such as cryptography and digital forensics. Michigan high schools where at least five girls in the Girls Go CyberStart Program master six or more of the challenges will win access to the full CyberStart Game for their entire school, extending the competition to both male and female students for the remainder of the school year. Students will also have the opportunity to win cash prizes for themselves and their schools.
The cybersecurity industry is one of the fastest-growing professions in the country, with the demand for skilled candidates outpacing the current supply. There is also a large gender gap in the workplace where only 11 percent of cybersecurity professionals are women. In Michigan, at least 10 high school girls will each get $500 scholarships to help them pay for college.
Participating students (and their teachers) do not need knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to participate in the free program. All that is required is a computer and an internet connection. Registration is open now and the games begin on March 20. Interested students and schools can register at girlsgocyberstart.org.
In 2018, the SANS Institute piloted Girls Go CyberStart, a program designed to inspire the next generation of cybersecurity professionals while identifying talented youth. The 2018 program provided the opportunity for 6,650 young women in 16 states to discover and demonstrate their aptitude for cybersecurity.