State partnership with California cybersecurity firm looks to address worker shortages

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BISAMRCK, N.D. - As technology finds its way into more and more jobs, state leaders want kids exposed to it earlier in life. Now the state is partnering with a California cyber security firm to make that a reality.

The partnership lets Bismarck State College offer a new degree starting by fall 2019. Plus K-12 classrooms will see more technology in their lessons.

When your parents were in second grade, it was spelling tests and math quizzes. Now it's coding robots.

"We thought it was important to integrate the technology so that they could start to create things that were of interest to them,” said Markelle Dockter, Liberty Elementary teacher.

While this isn't the standard yet, it will be in a couple years.

"All of those jobs in the future have huge technology components to them. Technology is integrated in everything we do. We really want to have every student who's going into that 21st century workforce to be cyber educated,” said Shawn Riley, North Dakota’s Chief information Officer.

The state's partnership with Palo Alto networks in California looks to address the projected 1.8 million job openings in cyber security by 2022. That's why they're starting them young.

"Why not be as absolutely inclusive as we can be because that diverse intellect really helps to deliver a much better product in the end and that's what we're trying to expand to,” said Riley.

But the state has openings in cyber security now. That's where Bismarck State College comes in. Palo Alto’s $1.6 million donation to BSC creates new degree programs. BSC president Larry Skogen says the sky's the limit.

"We're going to be able to use their experts in the development of our curriculum. But, we will also be able to use their experts as adjunct professors in this program. So we're going to be able to scale this,” said Skogen.

Skogen and Riley are confident the new programs will help fill the roughly 700 open cyber security jobs in the state. The K-12 standards are currently being worked on. Riley says he expects the pilots of those programs to be in place for the 2019-2020 school year.