DETROIT – This past summer I had the honor of being asked to join a state of Michigan multi-department working group.  The state had received funding focused on K-12 cybersecurity education from the National Governor’s Association.

The Governor’s Association, which was founded in 1908 as the voice of the leaders of 55 states, territories, and commonwealths is dedicated to bipartisan solutions that will improve citizens’ lives through state government. Through the NGA, state governors identify priority issues and deal with matters of public policy and governance at the state, national and global levels.

Tamara Shoemaker

The purpose of the grant was to, 1) secure Michigan schools, 2) enhance access to K-12 cybersecurity curricula, and 3) begin to lay out what it will take to build future cybersecurity leaders.  This effort was carried out under the auspices of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB),  Michigan Department of Education(MDE), Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), Michigan National Guard, Michigan State Police, Michigan’s community leaders in Cybersecurity and the NGA representatives.

In my past six years of firsthand experience with K-12 cybersecurity education, I have seen how many obstacles lie in the path of Michigan’s teachers. Prior to COVID, a concentrated effort to fully integrate cybersecurity education into K-12 teaching was required.  Now that COVID has turned the Michigan education system on its head, it has highlighted the harm that can befall anybody who is not sufficiently protected. That makes it obvious that we must teach our future workforce the importance of cybersecurity.

The task force has met a couple times each week over the last five months to put together a comprehensive plan to protect our schools, increase access to cybersecurity curriculum and reward schools that are producing future cybersecurity leaders.  This effort will culminate in a 4-part webinar series for Michigan teachers and administrators aimed at obtaining feedback about the work. Then we will take that feedback, make the necessary changes, and publish the results on a State sponsored website that will be loaded with resources and information for Michigan teachers.

Getting a properly educated workforce is critical to Michigan’s progress.  Consequently, this is truly a positive step that will continue to push Michigan to the forefront as a cybersecurity center of influence. Success at the K-12 level in providing basic cybersecurity education will let post-secondary educators focus on further enhancing student’s cybersecurity capabilities, instead of forcing them to start from the beginning.  While we have more work to do and this landscape is a continually moving target, it has still been an amazing journey and I have been honored to take part in the project.

Tamara Shoemaker, Director of the Center for Cyber Security & Intelligence Studies at the University of Detroit Mercy and founder of the Michigan Cyberpatriot Program.