Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb recently announced the 2019 Girls Go CyberStart challenge, a skills-based competition designed to encourage girls to pursue cyber-based learning and career opportunities. High school girls can register now through March 20, when the games begin. 

Indiana was one of 16 states to participate in the inaugural event hosted in 2018 by the SANS Institute. More than 6,500 girls participated, including more than 400 Hoosier high school students. This year, the program has expanded to 26 states, including a collegiate competition, and the organization provides free cybersecurity resources to interested schools.

“Indiana is a proven cybersecurity leader and continues to grow its reputation as a national leader in technology,” Gov. Holcomb said. “We should encourage our young people to know and pursue tech-based skills to help develop critical thinking skills and find fulfilling careers in a high-wage, high-demand field.”

The country faces a deep shortage in computer science and cyber trained workers, although experts predict these to be some of the highest paying, in-demand jobs. Since 2010, cyber jobs have increased by more than 75 percent, outpacing the talent pool and resulting in more than 1 million unfilled cyber positions nationwide. In Indiana, an estimated 2,300 jobs are unfilled, according to the Cyberseek jobs tool.

Girls Go CyberStart centers on a fun and thought-provoking game to inspire young women to test their aptitude in cyber skills. Female students in grades 9-12 can participate for free, either as individuals or as part of a school-based team. As part of the CyberStart challenge, participants will take on the roles of agents in the Cyber Protection Agency, where they will develop forensic and analytical skills and deploy them to sleuth through challenges and tackle various online cybercriminal gangs.

This year, college students can participate in a separate challenge called Cyber FastTrack, which allows students who excel in both the CyberStart Game and CyberStart Essentials (an online course that extends the learning of CyberStart Game) to be eligible to win $2.5 million in scholarships for advanced cybersecurity training and to be introduced to employers for internships and jobs in the field.

College students can register for Cyber FastTrack beginning April 5 and will be able to start playing immediately. Participating students do not need prior cybersecurity knowledge or IT experience. All that is required is a computer and an Internet connection.

More information can be found at girlsgocyberstart.org for Girls Go CyberStart and at cyber-fasttrack.org for Cyber FastTrack. 

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