Deering High School junior Quinn Ferrar said she hopes to learn how to better protect online accounts through her enrollment in PATHS’ cybersecurity program. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Students at Portland Arts and Technology High School are training to be on the front lines of cybersecurity while preparing for careers in a burgeoning industry.

The school is offering a two-year cybersecurity course that teaches students the fundamentals of information technology and teaches students how to be safe on the internet along the way.

“The market right now is very hot for these jobs,” said cybersecurity instructor Nate Jalbert, who came to PATHS this fall after teaching information technology classes at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center. “A lot of local businesses are looking to hire students in cybersecurity roles.”

Quinn Ferrar, a junior at Deering High School, wants to work as a  security analyst and is hoping to get a leg up in the industry by taking Jalbert’s course.

“I’ve been hacked before, so I want to be able to understand and learn better ways to protect my account and other people’s accounts,” Ferrar said, adding that she is looking forward to learning more about computer forensics.

Gavin Hines, a senior at Greely High School is hoping to use the cybersecurity class at PATHS to learn more about what it is like to work in the industry. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Gavin Hines, a Greely High School senior, is also interested in a career working with computers.

“I know I want to do something with computers. I took a new media class here last year and when I heard they were starting a cybersecurity program, it seems it may be a bit more of what I want to do,” said Hines, who was recently named the PATHS cybersecurity student of the quarter.

Henry Felch, associate professor of cybersecurity at the University of Maine at Augusta, said a background in cybersecurity from a young age is important.

“Every aspect of our lives is touched by computers in some way or another and we need to understand basic cyber hygiene,” he said.

While other career and technical high schools across the state offer some cybersecurity elements in computer science and information technology classes, PATHS is the only one in the state to offer cybersecurity as a discipline. Jalbert sees that changing soon.

“A lot of high schools are shifting away from (information technology) and towards cybersecurity and robotics and are focusing on what’s happening in the industry and trying to stay current,” Jalbert said.

Jalbert said his goal for the program, which started last month for juniors and seniors, is to ensure students have enough skills to earn certifications on the Paloalto security platform and CompTIA A+, the industry standard needed for a career in information technology.

Felch hopes PATHS’ program can serve as a model for other technical schools around the state.

“PATHS has done a good job setting up the program,” he said.

Portland Arts and Technology High School has introduced a course that teaches students the ins and outs of cybersecurity. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

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