Gov. Terry McAuliffe has announced a new cyber security training partnership between the Commonwealth and the SANS Institute.

CyberStart, a free online game of discovery, provides Virginia high school juniors, seniors, community college and college students interested in a cybersecurity career, with a tool to learn basic cyber security skills and test their cyber aptitude. The full-scale program will run from August 1-28.

“I am pleased to announce this exciting partnership with the SANS Institute which gives students in the Commonwealth the ability to explore and excel in cyber, at no cost to them,” said McAuliffe. “Growing Virginia’s cyber workforce is foundational to maintaining our position as a national leader in cyber security. This is a great opportunity for us to expand our talent pipeline by engaging young people interested in learning more about cyber security and directing them to the appropriate training and career coaching.”

Students from Virginia who excel in the CyberStart program will have the opportunity to share in $150,000 in scholarships for further cyber education, and ultimately an additional $500,000 in scholarships for college and graduate-level training and preparation for highly sought-after industry certifications. Virginia students will be competing with students from six other states for these scholarships. The scholarships are sponsored by the SANS Institute.

“The CyberStart program is an exciting opportunity for individuals who are interested in cyber security, but not currently engaged in formal cyber training, to test their cyber acumen and potentially earn scholarships for advanced industry-relevant training and certification,” said Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson.  “We are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with the SANS Institute on this extremely important initiative.”

“This initiative aligns perfectly with our efforts to expose students to careers in high-demand fields, and to allow them to explore jobs that may be a good match with their talents and interests,” added Secretary of Education Dietra Trent. “By providing scholarships, the SANS Institute will also help ensure that students with the potential to succeed in cyber security can access the requisite training and education, regardless of their financial circumstances.”

When asked why SANS is making this investment, SANS Director of Research Alan Paller said, “Because the nation desperately needs more highly-skilled cyber professionals, and we have new evidence that CyberStart will radically improve the quality and preparation of people entering the cybersecurity field.  SANS trains more than 30,000 advanced cybersecurity professionals each year for military and intelligence organizations and for large high-tech companies in the U.S. and its allies. We discovered that those who have mastered the topics taught and measured in the CyberStart program do far better than others in the advanced cybersecurity courses that prepare the critically needed people. By opening CyberStart to hundreds of thousands of students we may be able to help the nation identify the next generation of talented people who will excel in this critical field.”

For eligibility and CyberStart information, visit cyberva.virginia.gov.