KING WILLIAM – King William High School will offer students a new track of cybersecurity courses beginning in the fall.
The program, known as Institute for Cybersecurity Education, or iForCE, will allow students to gain fundamental skills and certifications required for entry-level employment in the cybersecurity field. King William students who register for iForCE have the opportunity to gain experience in cybersecurity technology and graduate from high school with industry-recognized certifications and the potential to earn between $40,000 and $50,000 per year.
King William is one of only three school districts in the commonwealth to implement the iForCE program so far.
King William High School Principal Stanley Waskiewicz said the opportunity to bring iForCE to the school was "compelling."
"The fact that we could have students prepared for a career right out of high school without any further education was intriguing," Waskiewicz said. "The fact that students who went through four years of the program could make a considerable amount of money and have the job skills that will be in demand for a long time was absolutely compelling."
iForCE was developed by Mike Miklich, an instructor at Christ Chapel Academy, a private Christian school in Woodbridge. Prior to teaching, Miklich worked as a government contractor for the Department of Defense. He says he began developing iForCE because the United States was lagging behind other countries in job-ready "ethical hackers."
An ethical hacker is someone who is certified through the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) to access computer networks for the purpose of finding or repairing security vulnerabilities.
"I noticed the United States was sorely lacking professionals with these skills compared to China and Russia," Miklich said. "Over the next 20 years, (iForCE will) provide the United States with a cybersecurity workforce of roughly 10 million professionals."
Bernard Skoch, national commissioner at CyberPatriot, a nonprofit youth science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program based in Washington, D.C., said he disagrees the United States is lagging behind other countries in cybersecurity, but that it does need to begin preparing professionals at an earlier age.
"I would argue that our (the United States') cybersecurity industry is the world's best," Skoch said. "But I would offer that a grave concern of ours is that we don't have the pipeline of talent that can continue to support it. You can't take a college senior and suddenly turn him or her into a cybersecurity professional expert — you can't even do it with a college freshman. That's why our target needs to be middle school and high school students, so that when we need them in the workforce, they're ready to take this next step."
Miklich said he developed the courses based on the National Security Agency's list of requirements for entry-level employment. Miklich also studied college degree tracks and their respective prerequisites in order to reverse-engineer the content for high school classrooms.
Through iForCE, students can learn programming in C++, Java, Python, Ruby, Perl and PHP. Students also will be eligible to take Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and Microsoft certification exams.
Deborah Stickley, King William County Public School's budget and financial coordinator, noted the program was markedly cost -effective when compared to college or private instruction courses.
"The cost to the (King William County) school division per student for the whole course is less than $4,000," Stickley said. "That's for the entire program — all four years."
Classes will also be held at King William High School, which according to Stickley, will save the school district any transportation costs they might have incurred busing students to an off-site facility.
Students are able to enroll in iForCE for free, though King William administration noted the course content is self-directed, meaning students are responsible for completing hefty work loads at their own pace and without the instruction of a teacher. However, Waskiewicz said classrooms will have a career and technical education (CTE) instructor to monitor students and assist them with work whenever possible.
"This year, we're going to have a CTE instructor in the classroom," Waskiewicz said. "But he in essence will not instruct the class. There will be someone online — I was told in real time — that the students could chat with or maybe send emails to and get questions answered."
"If they're a student who can keep on task and keep up with work, they'll be successful in the program," Waskiewicz added. "It's pretty much like taking an individual online course."
Waskiewicz said students enrolled in the iForCE program must have and maintain a 95 percent attendance rate, a 99 percent on-time rate, and a 3.0 grade point average.
Mike Embry, a school division instructional technology resource specialist, said iForCE could also teach students how to be a good employee before they enter the workforce.
"You can't just come in there (to the classroom) when you want to," Embry said. "You have to be a good citizen."
Embry also said he hopes iForCE will make King William students attractive to technology companies in Richmond and elsewhere.
"I would like for companies from Richmond to start looking at King William as a major supplier of employees," Embry said.
There are currently 15 students enrolled in the program and Waskiewicz said King William will leave registration open for another week or more for any students who may still be interested.
For more information about the iForCE program, visit http://www.iforce.me.
McMillan can be reached by phone at 804-885-0042.