Cyber security summer camp looks to spark interest, fill jobs

Cyber security summer camp in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Thousands of cyber security jobs are going unfilled in Oregon, all because high school and college students aren't getting the training they need.

That's why all week, some Portland-area students are using their summer break to get a jump-start on that career with Cyber Security Summer Camp.

Sixty-five students at three camp locations around Portland are listening to speakers in the industry and then get hands-on training from companies like IBM and McAfee, learning how to build firewalls for security and kick out hackers once they've infiltrated a system.

The all-girls camp is at Lincoln High School. Twenty young women in high school, and some a few years older, are spending their summer investing in their future.

"It's probably something I would want to do," said 21-year-old Yedhic Arenas. She graduated from Reynolds High school and didn't know what she wanted to do. She briefly did construction, building masonry walls and chimneys. Then she heard about this cyber security camp, and decided to try it out. Now she's hooked on wanting to help people. Even her own mom who was hacked on her smart phone.

"People are going to fall for a scam because it's always changing every time, so if something doesn't work it just keeps evolving," she said.

Charlie Kawasaki is in the cyber security field and started the camp last year with his teenage daughter. These camps started as all coed, and not a single girl signed up. Kawasaki's daughter told him that if they offered an all-girls option, they would attract young women. Sure enough, 20 ladies jumped at the chance this year.

Building confidence in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

"For people who like a lot of variety and think on their feet and don't want to do same thing day in and day out, it's really dynamic work to do," Kawasaki said.

Kawasaki says criminals evolve so fast, schools aren't keeping up with good training, leaving holes in the workforce. "Right now in the United States, there are 350,000 unfilled cyber security jobs and about 5,000 in Oregon alone," he said.

Having a girls-only option is also opening doors to a high-paying field that needs more women. Students like Natalie Dodson, who is loving hearing from the speakers and can't wait to compete on the last day of camp at trying to foil a simulated cyber security hack.

"It's trying to encourage people to take the opportunity that they have and to understand that they're smart and they can do it and they can really do whatever they want," Dodson said.

At the end of camp, there's a banquet with Oregon cyber companies offering more training and internships for interested students. The organizers are trying to educate high schools and colleges that more classes need to be offered in this field.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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