RIPLEY COUNTY COMMUNITY FOUNDATION AND GENESIS: PATHWAYS TO SUCCESS RECEIVE EDUCATION-WORKFORCE INNOVATION GRANT

Batesville, Indiana – The Ripley County Community Foundation has been awarded an exclusive Education-Workforce Innovation Network (EWIN) Grant for the implementation of a plan to support career pathways in Information Security. With months of research and study visits involving local educators and business partners, Genesis: Pathways to Success (GPS), the STEM initiative of Ripley County Community Foundation, was the catalyst for the grant.

The plan is to establish a strategy to develop a workforce with the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA) required for careers in cybersecurity. Emphasizing the importance of cybersecurity, Indiana Governor Mike Pence formed the Indiana State Executive Council on Cybersecurity in April 2016. The Council will create innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or causing problems for computer networks.

“Feedback from employers involved in this project confirms that cybersecurity threats are becoming more sophisticated,” Cheryll Obendorf, executive director of GPS, said. “They’re increasing in volume and are causing risk management strategies to become more complex. This is a massive undertaking, yet the lack of individuals with KSAs to meet the needs of employers makes this an area of critical need.”

Employers also see value in this program as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of individuals with KSAs is projected to grow 18 percent between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

“At Hillenbrand, we work diligently to attract and retain talent,” Darryl Maslar, vice president of Enterprise Information Systems at Hillenbrand, said. “In order to remain competitive in the IT world, we must create unique partnerships to help foster the growth and development of skilled workers in our community.”

To clarify the focus of the project, an EWIN planning grant awarded in June 2016 provided technical support from the University of Indianapolis Center for Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) and an opportunity for a team of educators representing secondary schools in Ripley County to visit Huntsville City Schools in Alabama to explore the scope of Huntsville’s cybersecurity career pathway. This study visit emphasized the value of an exceptional foundational mathematics education, the value of strong industry partnerships, and the value of summer and after-school programming especially for middle and early high school students.

Ripley County schools are stepping up to the challenge with Ripley County students across every district being immersed into a full computer science and information technology culture. Starting as young as pre-K and kindergarten, students are developing digital citizenship, ethical behavior, problem solving and critical thinking skills. These character-building traits are emphasized as students increase knowledge in academic subjects such as algorithmic problem solving, network diagrams and hierarchy and abstraction in computing.

Programs like Hour of Code and offerings by Code.org are integrated with new Computer Science Standards in the schools. Computer science is integrated in many courses, and after-school and in-school student focused technical support teams are in place in most of the schools. Funding for the implementation plan will build upon these existing programs by providing educator training, creating career awareness campaigns and support for after-school clubs and activities and by developing summer opportunities for students with a particular interest and aptitude for cybersecurity.

Genesis: Pathways to Success (GPS) is an initiative of the Ripley County Community Foundation dedicated to empowering students to succeed in STEM by developing programs in areas such as engineering, agriculture, health science and technology as well as by supporting events that encourage students to apply curious minds and critical thinking skills to real-world opportunities. GPS generates ongoing and meaningful dialogue and collaboration to prepare a talent pipeline for a globally dynamic marketplace. For additional information, please visit www.genesisp2s.org.