Camp works to train cybersecurity experts of the future

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) -- Twenty high schoolers came to Burlington, Vermont from across the country to solve puzzles.

"You have one bit of evidence from one part and a little bit of evidence from another and you have to put it together," said Abby Pirkle of Wortham, Texas.

But the puzzles they're solving are not so simple. And they're hooked.

"The logic, the complexity," said Beckett Jenen of New York City.

The kids are cracking codes and rooting out hackers at Champlain College's Digital Forensics and Cyber Security Academy.

"We're just trying to get students excited about this as early on in their high school careers as we can," said Jonathan Rajewski, a professor at Champlain College.

It is a two-week camp. Kids stay in the dorms at night and spend their days learning the ins and outs of working in a real-life digital forensic lab.

Pirkle knew she wanted to come as soon as she learned about it.

"Well, I really want to go into law enforcement, so I really like the aspect of being able to help catch the people who do illegal things," she said.

A year of headlines about hacked emails and data breaches is not lost on these kids. They see combating cybercrime as an intriguing career.

"The world has a giant enemy of hackers and there needs to be protection for that," Jenen said.

That need is so great that there's a shortage of workers trained in cybersecurity. Champlain sees this summer academy as a way to recruit more students for its cyber program at the college, and those graduates are in high demand.

"We have a 96 to 100 percent job placement within six months of graduation and employers are still coming to our campus asking for students, and they're already employed. So trying to increase enrollment in this space is important," Rajewski said.

Leo Ginsberg of Long Island, New York, says this summer experience has been so good for him, he's thinking of applying to Champlain.

"I love solving puzzles so that's a great aspect of it, but I do want to help people and the idea of securing, like, a nation is something I really want to do," Ginsberg said. "I really want to go attend Champlain; it's like my dream college."

Cyber graduates not only get job offers, Rajewski says starting salaries are $65,000-$100,000, plus bonuses.

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