National Science Foundation Awards FRCC and SVVSD $494,175 to Open a Cybersecurity P-TECH Program

Front Range Range Community College (FRCC) and St. Vrain Valley Schools have been awarded a $494,175 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support the opening of a Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program in cybersecurity. The grant was awarded as part of NSF’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, which focuses on education for high-technology fields that drive the nation's economy. 
 
The new cybersecurity P-TECH will allow students to earn an associate degree alongside their high school diploma—at no cost to the student. Students will apply to begin the program in ninth grade and graduate within four to six years. The initiative will include FRCC, St. Vrain Valley Schools, and a collaboration of industry partners including Seagate, Cisco, and Comcast.
 
“We’re thrilled to be included in this project. We need young, talented people in the cybersecurity industry and this is an innovative way to get there," shared Joan Motsinger, Senior VP of Business Excellence at Seagate. "Working locally with high school students and helping to prepare them for future opportunities in technology is exactly what is needed today.” 
 
The vast majority of cybersecurity jobs require at least an associate degree. To address the skill needs of businesses, the course of study for the new P-TECH program will be developed in close collaboration with industry partners. Students will receive significant work-based learning opportunities—including work site visits, mentoring with industry mentors, and paid internships. 
 
“Cybersecurity is critical to almost every industry,” said FRCC President Andy Dorsey. “That’s why jobs in this arena are plentiful in Colorado—and they pay well. When our P-TECH students complete the FRCC cybersecurity program, they’ll be highly qualified to get good jobs right out of high school.”
 
This is the third P-TECH program in St. Vrain Valley Schools and the second developed in partnership with FRCC. Through this program, FRCC and St. Vrain are working to increase Colorado’s workforce capacity in cybersecurity and other tech industry sectors. According to a 2019 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the U.S. currently faces a cybersecurity workforce shortage of about 314,000 workers out of a total national cybersecurity workforce of 716,000—and by 2022, that gap is expected to reach 1.8 million unfilled positions. 
 
This unique P-TECH program is designed to increase diversity in the cybersecurity workforce pipeline by recruiting students earlier in their educational careers. It will also increase student engagement and workplace success skills by providing meaningful industry work experiences, and improve student preparedness by providing industry-aligned coursework.
 
“We are creating opportunities that are not only giving our students a strong competitive advantage for their future, but also supporting a robust technology industry and a thriving economy in our community,” said Don Haddad, Ed.D., Superintendent of St. Vrain Valley Schools. “We are incredibly appreciative of our partnership with Front Range Community College and our industry partners, such as Seagate, Cisco, and Comcast, in working together to address the growing need for a strong cybersecurity workforce.”
 
The Cybersecurity P-TECH program will be housed at Silver Creek High School and student recruitment will begin this fall. The first-year cohort of 30-35 students will be enrolling in fall 2021, a second year cohort of 30-35 students in fall 2022, with future cohorts increasing to 50-60 students per cohort (based on student demand). 
 
"We are excited to work with St. Vrain Valley Schools and Front Range Community College in developing a new workforce pipeline in cybersecurity,” said Nick Nielsen, Fellow at Comcast. “Cybersecurity touches just about everything we do—we need more people with skills and training to protect our online information. This is a perfect way to start young people on a fun, interesting, and important career pathway."