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Pathways to a Successful Future

Local students can enroll in Cybersecurity and Engineering Technology programs.

Chantilly Academy students in the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program participated in a federal IT Job Shadow Day at the Pentagon, last Thursday, Feb. 7. Learning that the Pentagon’s chief information officer is a woman, future cyber-defenders (from left) Westfield High students Jackie Lasky and Tanya Sutan-Tanon, plus Fairfax High’s Jessica Miers, are encouraged in their plans for successful careers in cybersecurity.

Chantilly Academy students in the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program participated in a federal IT Job Shadow Day at the Pentagon, last Thursday, Feb. 7. Learning that the Pentagon’s chief information officer is a woman, future cyber-defenders (from left) Westfield High students Jackie Lasky and Tanya Sutan-Tanon, plus Fairfax High’s Jessica Miers, are encouraged in their plans for successful careers in cybersecurity. Photo Contributed

In the coming weeks, freshmen, sophomores and juniors in Fairfax and Woodson high schools and Robinson Secondary School will be planning their class schedules for fall. And before they do, Joan Ozdogan, career experience specialist at Chantilly Academy—a Governor’s STEM Academy—wants them to know about two new programs they might want to take.

One is Information Technology, or Cybersecurity, and the other is Engineering Technology-Advanced Manufacturing. Both will prepare graduates for high-paying jobs in high-demand careers.

Each year, the academy attracts students from a wide variety of high schools throughout the county, including many from Robinson, Fairfax and Woodson. So on Wednesday, Feb. 27, from 6-8 p.m., it’ll hold an open house so people may find out more about all the classes it offers.

But Ozdogan’s especially excited about what’s happening that night from 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the school lecture hall. That’s when the two new programs will be showcased for all current freshmen, sophomores and juniors and their parents.

Also attending will be the college and industry partners involved in these new programs. They’ll represent NVCC, Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, Northrop Grumman, Orbital Sciences Corp., Micron Technology, Lockheed Martin, SRC Inc., The SI Organization and the Virginia Manufacturers Assn.

Cybersecurity

“Both government and industry are looking to hire experts in cybersecurity,” said Ozdogan. “It is literally the ‘it’ technology in information technology. It’s network-security specialists who are defending computer networks from unauthorized, illegal access or—worse, yet—from someone trying to get in and shut them down.”

At risk are transportation systems, bank and medical records, water-distribution systems, the nation’s electrical grid, air traffic control systems, etc. So, said Ozdogan, “The need could not be more apparent.”

In Cybersecurity, students can take three paths to prepare them for careers at various levels of this field. They may obtain a certificate in Network Security; an AAS (Associate of Applied Science) degree in Information Systems Technology-Network Security; or a BS in Information Technology-Information Security.

“We’ve developed a dual-enrollment program here with NOVA’s Manassas campus so students can take high-school courses for high-school and college credit, at the same time,” said Ozdogan. “So by the time they finish our two-year program, they could earn 37 college credits.”

It’s also much cheaper to take the classes in this course at the academy than in college. “This year, the cost per credit hour at NOVA is $150, and that doesn’t include parking, fees and books,” said Ozdogan. “Here, it costs just $21.79/credit hour because our academy teachers—who’ve been approved as adjunct NOVA professors—are teaching it.”

These students will also have completed nearly three semesters of college work while in high school. That’s because the classes in this program include pre-calculus with trigonometry, plus English 12, so they’ll fulfill their core requirements for both high-school and college graduation.

They’ll get a slew of technical certifications, too, with FCPS paying for them to take their certification exams. These same exams, taken in college and beyond, would cost hundreds of dollars. The academy plans to enroll 200 students in this program initially and grow it from there.

“If parents ask me what career their child can go into that will take them 30 years into the future, the one that comes to mind first is cybersecurity,” said Ozdogan. “A student earning his or her associates degree in Network Security—and having earned a couple cybersecurity certifications, plus a security clearance—can start a job at $80,000/year. Students going on to complete a four year degree in this field can earn $100,000/year, plus a signing bonus.”

Engineering Technology

“This program builds on our more than 12 years of history teaching engineering,” said Ozdogan. “We’ve got good kids with great hands, creative minds and great problem-solving skills. They think outside the box, but may not choose to pursue a BS in engineering.” This program provides them a way to get that degree in engineering technology.

“Engineers design an object and the engineering technician operates, maintains and troubleshoots it, is involved in its quality control and is a valuable partner in determining how to improve it and innovate its next generation,” explained Ozdogan. “And the greatest need in Virginia today is for skilled workers, especially engineering technicians working in advanced manufacturing.”

Virginia’s number-one product today is memory chips, and they’re produced in an advanced manufacturing environment. Micron Technology in Manassas—one of the academy’s partners—is the top memory-chip producer in the U.S. and employs both engineers and engineering technicians, who they call manufacturing technicians.

“It’s a modern, clean-lab environment and is all automated,” said Ozdogan. “Another major employer of engineering technicians in Virginia is the pharmaceutical industry—the second-largest manufacturing industry in the state. Advanced manufacturing isn’t the old-fashioned, blue-collar assembly line; it’s a world of white-collar, professional, skilled workers.”

And, she added, “Because the baby boomers in today’s skilled workforce will retire in the next five to 10 years, there’ll be upwards of 100,000 job openings for skilled workers in advanced manufacturing.”

The academy’s program in this field will also offer three paths to success. Students may become manufacturing technicians to then obtain on-the-job training, or they may obtain either an AAS or BS in engineering technology.

In the high school-to-work scenario, for example, Micron Technology will hire an academy grad who’s completed pre-calculus with trigonometry and has one year of college English—which comes via dual enrollment in English 12 for both high school and college credit. That person must also have an industry certification—which he or she will get during the program—and demonstrate workplace-readiness skills.

Or the student could obtain an AAS degree in engineering technology, good for 17 college credits, if they complete the required Academy classes in the program and go on to NOVA. For a BS in this field, academy grads could then take their accumulated credits from high school and NOVA and obtain their degree at Old Dominion or Norfolk State.

“Beginning engineering technicians start at $50,000-$65,000/year, and those with BS degrees would begin at even higher salaries,” said Ozdogan. “And their salaries would increase as they acquired more certifications and skills.”

“We believe preparation for a great career can begin in high school,” she continued. “And both these programs—cybersecurity and engineering technology—represent high-demand, high-value and high-impact futures relevant to where the top jobs are in today’s workforce.”

So, said Ozdogan, “We want students and parents to join us for our open house and learn more about these exciting programs directly from our higher-education and industry partners.” For more information, contact her at 703-222-7464 or jeozdogan@fcps.edu.