St. Vrain Valley School District is accepting applications for a new Pathways in Technology Early College High School program, P-TECH, focusing on cybersecurity to be taught at Silver Creek High School.
In fall 2021, SVVSD in partnership with the Front Range Community College and five area companies, will launch its third P-TECH program, said Erick Finnestead, Silver Creek High School principal.
“It’s a four and a half year program (that) allows students to earn their associate’s of applied science in cybersecurity through Front Range while taking classes concurrently at Silver Creek,” he said, adding students will be accepted into the program as freshmen and will graduate with both a high school diploma and the associate’s degree.
Beyond regular coursework, the program entails a guided study component through which students will have the opportunity to meet with a dedicated SVVSD counselor.
“We'll also be hosting during this time opportunities (for students) to meet with industry partners,” Finnestead said. “(They’ll) be providing support by way of mentors, opportunities for internships, and also opportunities to interview (for jobs) ... once students graduate.”
Corporate partners include Cisco, Seagate, Comcast and Peak Resources Inc.
“This field is going to be growing over the course of the next several years. And so we wanted to do what we could to provide students with this additional level of cybersecurity literacy,” Finnestead said, adding there is vast opportunity for potential employment in the field with more than 3 million cybersecurity jobs going unfilled worldwide and more than 700,000 unfilled jobs just in the United States.
Colorado is among the top five states with the highest concentration of jobs in the occupation of information security, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The tech sector accounted for 14% of the state’s GDP in 2017, which was the fourth largest share in the country, per the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
While the program is open to all interested students, SVVSD is taking a strong look at students who may be underrepresented in the field, Finnestead said, adding that includes first-generation college students as well as female and minority students.
“We’re trying to advocate for and recruit students who have not been traditionally represented in this field,” he said.
The program is funded by a grant of just under $500,000 awarded to Front Range Community College by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education program, said Beth Wheeler, director of high school programs at the Front Range Community College Boulder County Campus, adding the college will be responsible for delivering college-level classes at Silver Creek High School starting in January 2022.
“The reason for starting (in the spring semester) is so that students can actually transition from middle school to high school,” she said, “This gives students a year of transitioning into two levels of education.”
The community college has been heavily involved in concurrent enrollment for SVVSD high school students and will work with program participants to ensure they understand what a college-level education means, she said.
“The beautiful thing about this partnership is for the public school district and the community college to be working together,” she said. “We anticipate seeing more of these P-TECH programs. Families are starting to see what a powerful experience high school can be by being in a program like this, and the demand will become bigger.”
When it starts, the cybersecurity program will be one of three P-TECH tracks offered through SVVSD, including computer sciences at Skyline High School and biochemistry at Frederick High School.The program application is available in English and Spanish and will remain open until Jan. 8. For more information about the program, click here and select the RaptorTech P-TECH tab.