Inspiring the Next GENeration of CYBER Stars at GCU's GenCyber Camp

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Cyber threats and data breaches are on the rise, with hackers and cyber criminals utilizing increasingly sophisticated tools and methods to access sensitive systems and information.1 There is a pressing need for trained cybersecurity professionals to defend networks, infrastructure and data.2 However, the talent gap is widening — it’s predicted there will be over 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2025.3 Inspiring and educating the next generation to fill this void is critical.

It is to this end that the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) fund GenCyber camps across the nation. These camps provide hands-on opportunities to explore cybersecurity in a week-long immersive cybersecurity program that is tailored toward K-12 education.

Click here to sign up for the GenCyber Camps

Grand Canyon University has been thrilled to be a part of this national initiative, offering both teacher and student camps. One teacher commented that, “Camp gave me so many additional skills and knowledge along with takeaway hands-on activities that I can implement immediately into the classroom that will make learning fun and productive for my students.”

In This Article: 

What Is a GenCyber Teacher’s Camp? 

From June 10-14, 2024, teachers from across Arizona will come to GCU’s Cyber Center of Excellence (CCE) for the GCU GenCyber Teacher Camp. This camp, along with others across the nation, plays an important role in our national cyber defense by training K-12 teachers on cybersecurity concepts and hands-on activities they can take back to their classrooms.

Through this gencyber program, teachers can learn how to expose their students to cybersecurity concepts. This may be particularly beneficial in getting high school students excited about the field and setting them on the path to pursue college programs and careers in this domain. By inspiring an early passion for cybersecurity, we can expand the talent pipeline.

Introducing Specialized Tools, Concepts and Ethical Hacking

The GCU GenCyber Camp program introduces teachers to topics like cryptography, digital forensics, network defense, ethical hacking and more through hands-on activities. But what is gencyber? Teachers use tools that cybersecurity professionals leverage on a daily basis, analyzing practical cyber threats. For example, they may use password cracking tools to understand the importance of strong passwords or perform reconnaissance on mock networks and servers to find security flaws, always under the guidance of industry experts.

The CCE at GCU hosts the camp. A key premise of the CCE is to emphasize the “ethical hacking” approach used by cyber defenders, wherein authorized professionals probe networks and applications using hacking techniques, purely to identify weaknesses and improve protections rather than for malicious intents. Students have the opportunity to come away with baseline technical knowledge as well as a better understanding of professional ethics for "white hat" hackers.

Sparking Interest and Building Confidence 

By offering this camp to teachers, we are able to reach more high school students through the influence of teachers, giving students a glimpse into this exciting career path at a young age. Teachers that are passing along cybersecurity skills and knowledge to students can help solidify teens’ interest in technology and STEM fields, potentially convincing them to take relevant courses and pursue related college majors. This GenCyber Camp can help provide teachers with opportunity to empower K-12 students with practical cybersecurity skills and knowledge can help boost competency across thousands of students yearly, potentially creating ripple effects in communities.

The core goal is to get hands-on experience, discover talents and build confidence using specialist tools and laying a foundation for more advanced study down the road. Even basic exposure to concepts like encryption algorithms, attack vectors and system vulnerabilities can get students invested and help teachers build their confidence to pass on knowledge.

Bridging the Cyber Talent Gap

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for information security analysts to increase by about 32% from 2022 to 2032, much faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 53,200 jobs in the field.4 Cultivating talent from an early age is key. Cybersecurity summer camps can strengthen teacher knowledge, which may help propel adolescents toward technology career paths during pivotal points in their education. This can potentially drive more youth to pursue relevant college majors like computer science, software engineering and cybersecurity while equipping them with baseline skills to excel in these programs and majors.

Teachers often come out of these camps motivated to continue honing abilities and passing on knowledge to their students. This feeds top talent into cybersecurity roles regionally and nationally, benefiting companies, government agencies and other organizations facing a workforce shortage but battling growing threats. Nurturing cyber interests from middle school onward can help generate a crop of specialized graduates needed to propel cyber defenses across private and public sectors.

The Future of Cybersecurity Lies in Education

Of course, more systemic changes across primary, secondary and higher education are still needed to fully develop cyber talent at the scale required. But summer cybersecurity camps are making important inroads, actively working to get adolescents excited about and skilled up in this critical domain.

Week-long introductions to core cybersecurity principles can help empower teachers to influence students to consider a path to becoming ethical hackers protecting invaluable data and infrastructure. As threats mount, so too must our understanding of how to defend systems. High-quality education and early exposure are important. By inspiring the next generation through focused summer camps and other initiatives, we can take crucial steps toward a more secure digital future.

Pursue Your Cybersecurity Degree at GCU

If you are interested in starting your career path in cybersecurity, consider enrolling in the Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity degree at Grand Canyon University or view our other technology degree programs. Our technology programs are designed with the needs of modern workplaces in mind. Complete the form at the top of your screen to get started. 

1 Brooks, C. (2023, May 5). Cybersecurity Trends & Statistics; More Sophisticated And Persistent Threats So Far in 2023. Forbes. Retrieved March 12, 2024.

2 KnowledgeHut. (2023, Dec. 25). Cyber Security Demand: 2024 Skills to Learn. Retrieved March 12, 2024. 

3 Morgan, S. (2023, April 14). Cybersecurity Jobs Report: 3.5 Million Unfilled Positions In 2025. Cyber Crime Magazine. Retrieved March 13, 2024. 

4 The earnings referenced were reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Information Security Analysts as of May 2022, Retrieved March 13, 2023. Due to COVID-19, data from 2020 to 2022 may be atypical compared to prior years. BLS calculates the median using salaries of workers nationwide with varying levels of education and experience. It does not reflect the earnings of GCU graduates as information security analyst, nor does it reflect the earnings of workers in one city or region of the country or a typical entry-level salary. Median income is the statistical midpoint for the range of salaries in a specific occupation. It represents what you would earn if you were paid more money than half the workers in an occupation, and less than half the workers in an occupation. It may give you a basis to estimate what you might earn at some point if you enter this career. Grand Canyon University can make no guarantees on individual graduates’ salaries. Your employability will be determined by numerous factors over which GCU has no control, such as the employer the graduate chooses to apply to, the graduate’s experience level, individual characteristics, skills, etc. against a pool of candidates. 

Approved by Dr. Pam Rowland on April 5, 2024

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.