Academies of West Memphis pilots new Cybersecurity program

Academies of West Memphis pilots new Cybersecurity program

Arkansas Department of Career Education pathway offers unique opportunity to students

West Memphis Schools You can add another new direction for students at the Academies of West Memphis to pursue in order to be career-ready as soon as they walk off the stage at their graduation.

AWM has been selected to be the lead school to pilot the Cybersecurity pathway for the Arkansas Department of Career Education.

Students will have the opportunity to learn about programming, networking and cybersecurity during this three-year pathway.

Students will be offered courses that introduce cybersecurity concepts and hands-on practice as well as career opportunities in Information Technology.

Students will also learn about cybersecurity concepts, the fundamental principles of networking systems, network infrastructure and network security and be able to demonstrate how to implement various aspects of security within a networking system.

Cybersecurity is just the latest addition to AWM’s charter format which continues its pioneer journey toward more effective education for all students. In addition to preparing students after graduation with pathways that include Associates Degree, Bachelors Degree, Aviation and Airframe Mechanics, Diesel Mechanics, Hospitality and Entertainment, Healthcare and more.

“In seeking other avenues for our students within our career-ready concept, we began looking at the technology standpoint,” said AWM principal Gary Jackson. “We started looking at cybersecurity. With the cell phones, I-pads and all the technology that crosses over into industry… looking at the cyber attacks that have been going on, we started having conversations about cybersecurity.”

Jackson and West Memphis School Superintendent Jon Collins attended the Northeast Arkansas Masters Conference for administrators. The main speaker, Kathy Turner, met with Collins and Jackson about adding cybersecurity to the AWM curriculum.

“Kathy sent us some information that said by the year 2019 there will be one million jobs in cybersecurity across the country,” Jackson added. “We’ll be offering sophomores an introduction to the infrastructure. Our kids will learn what an attack looks like and how to detect something suspicious. Our kids will have an advantage when they get out into the workforce with this threeyear


The combination of skills gained in this program will be attractive to many employers in the area and abroad. Across the nation at this time there are 40,000 unfilled jobs calling for students to have this type of training.

Salaries in the industry range from $35,000 to $85,000 a year. The pathway will recruit digital learners that want to explore, learn and achieve in this career field.

Jackson said his school has begun talks to partner with Arkansas Tech University, ASU-Mid-South and the University of Memphis.

“So, if any of our kids want to go on post highschool

graduation and further

their skills it would open up more opportunities for them,” said Jackson.

The cybersecurity classes began with the fall semester of 2017. Gerry Wartenberg and Vicki Buck teach the classes.

“When we started our journey through this avenue we all attended a workshop in Washington, D.C., and we got to visit with the guy who is head of cybersecurity for the White House,” Jackson said. “The thing that really shook us at that time was he told us in one year there were 40,000 new jobs in this area in the Virginia region, tied into the government. He told us that if a kid got out of high school with three years of this type of training he could get hired on the spot.

Just think about how that sounds. You can graduate high school, have zero debt and start a career.”

Cybersecurity isn’t the only new addition to the AWM charter.

Supply chain management was also recently added. In this program, students will study and gain basic understanding of global logistics and supply chain technology, transportation systems, communication skills and customer service skills.

Students will gain knowledge regarding the impact of forecasting on supply, manufacturing and purchasing from point of origin to consumer. The multitude of career opportunities within this pathway will be explored. Exposure to industry site visits as well as warehouse, distribution center and retain space will be provided to the students of the program. The supply chain pathway will allow students to create stages, which includes suppliers, producers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers.

“From our standpoint, when we’re looking at our students, we’re looking at restructuring what we’re offering our kids,” Jackson stated. “We’re also offering soft skills classes, where kids will learn to prepare resumes and learn to speak to someone when they go for a job interview. They will also learn how to dress and do research on the firm they want to work for. It’s just a class on how to sell themselves and present themselves when entering the workforce.

“We’re also offering a social media class and within the next five years we’re hoping to partner with a drone program, where our kids will learn to fly drones within the shipping industry. The drones will allow companies to do inventory in one day as opposed to a human being taking a few days to do it.”

By Billy Woods