Over the last few months we have made plans on what to do for CyberUp’s 5-year anniversary. COVID has changed how we would like to celebrate with our friends but as they say in Hollywood, “the show must go on.” Please join us now through Thanksgiving in virtually celebrating where we were, where we are going, and how we got here. Each week we will share the stories, the memories, and the impact CyberUp has made since 2015. We will also share what we believe our next 5-years will look like. Our ask is to follow along and to help kick them off in the best way possible. We have lots of way you can support our work so please choose which one works best for you and get involved.

Five years ago, a group of leaders envisioned a single organization that would lead cybersecurity workforce efforts, connect youth to learning opportunities, and rally a region about cybersecurity. This idea spurred the creation of the Midwest Cyber Center of Excellence and we were off to races. Our team coordinated educational breakfasts, hosted Summer camps for youth, and awarded scholarships for certifications to individuals looking to break into the industry. As the subject of cyber grew in popularity more organizations joined the discussion and it became clear our priorities should be apprenticeship and youth engagement. This refocus called for a fresh take on our name and a relook at our next 3 – 5 years plan. With the support of our board of directors, we reimagined the “center” model and launched the brand of CyberUp. We set aspirational goals to change the way our country thinks about the “skills gap” fable. We have challenged ourselves to develop a true cybersecurity talent pipeline that starts in Kindergarten and takes individuals to careers. We do this through our nationally recognized apprenticeship program and our newly launched PowerUp: Cyber Games (PUCG).

You know how everyone has that one thing they are really good at? Well for us that is apprenticeship. We are apprenticeship experts. Being honest…apprenticeship is hard. Apprenticeship has been around forever but in the world of cybersecurity it is a new concept. Employers are still learning how to incorporate the model into their talent acquisition strategy. For additional context, when we created our program three years ago we were only the third cybersecurity related program in the country. There are now over 50 nationally. The combo of our pre-apprenticeship model, the partners we have aligned with to train candidates, and how we package the program to employers has CyberUp set up for success in our region and beyond. 2021 will be our breakout year for the program.

Since 2016, our team has created and led outreach events for youth. The goal is always to inspire students to see cybersecurity as a career they can achieve and to show them pathways to get there. We have engaged nearly 7,000 youth over the last 5 years in competitions, Summer camps, and general awareness presentations. We recognized we were creating moments in time for them to get excited but didn’t offer a way for them to keep learning. It was imperative for us to create an on-going learning opportunity that was fun and easy for educators to support. Insert the launch of PUCG. PUCG is a virtual cybersecurity competition where students do what the professionals do. They learn industry skills through a gamified competition platform powered by our partner, Cyber Skyline. Making the launch even more special is our partnership with National Cyber League. Together, we have created a competition model that starts for middle schoolers and goes all the way through college and into careers. As our first season launches for teams in Missouri, Illinois, Texas, California, and beyond, we can’t wait to see the impact the program has on students and educator