High school senior Ronald Simpson has a unique set of skills. The Washington, D.C.-based student can already add network analysis, black-box testing and penetration testing to his resume thanks to a Department of Homeland Security internship provided by On-Ramps to Careers, Fedscoop reports.
On-Ramps to Careers, a D.C.-based nonprofit, places local high school students in technology internships where they can gain firsthand experience, and thanks to their location, students are getting some pretty high-level opportunities.
“[DHS] would have me test their network and their methods of cyber defense against attacks,” says Simpson. “I didn’t think the Department of Homeland Security would let a high school student have this kind of opportunity.”
The nonprofit’s internship program serves eight D.C. high schools and places students in internships with businesses and government agencies alike.
“This is the second-largest labor market for IT in the country and there are huge numbers of young people who don’t have access to those kinds of jobs in this region, particularly young people of color,” On-Ramps to Careers founder Robert Holm tells Fedscoop.
With the IT job market expected to grow 22 percent through 2020, states can work to ensure these jobs are available to students of all backgrounds.
For this reason, Colorado has launched several STEMWorks programs to reach students at all levels and in all areas. Similarly, in California, the state’s Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program targets “educationally disadvantaged students” to provide them with the skills to fill rapidly expanding tech jobs.
As the demand for IT jobs continues to grow, these programs can serve an important purpose in fostering a workforce to cater to the booming government IT industry, hopefully helping to solve much of the issue that governments have in attracting IT talent. Prince George’s County, Md., for example, has launched its Tech Prince George’s program, which aims to incubate and groom students for government IT jobs.
“We set out to connect with the next generation, the youth that’s going to come in and run IT at some point,” Sandra Longs, IT training director for the county, told StateTech. “We try to go out and get the IT talent, to use the technology with some of the vexing problems confronting Prince George’s County, and those issues include low-income, foreclosure homes, health issues, high dropout rates in schools and poor test scores.”