By Susan Morris

Due to the extremely high number of cyber attacks every day, demand in the cybersecurity workforce sector is growing by leaps and bounds.  We all have to be creative in filling these jobs by expanding the pool of qualified cyber security professionals.

The AZ Cybersecurity Workforce Collaborative approached ABL Cyber Academy in Tempe to design a week-long cyber program for Phoenix Coding Academy high school students. “Cyber-Dive Week” was born.

While many students spent their fall break relaxing, nine Phoenix Coding Academy students hunkered down for a week-long course at the ABL Cyber Academy to learn ethical hacking skills and the importance of cybersecurity.

The week began with a lesson from the FBI on federal laws in place to prosecute illegal hacking. Students signed a pledge stating they would not use their newly acquired skills for unethical purposes.

The students had the opportunity to learn cutting-edge technology and applied the skills they learned to activities such as password cracking. Craig Cocciola, ABL Cyber Range Lab Manager, said, “The great thing about this program is students are not just given lectures about cybersecurity; they are actually performing the skills they learned.”

It is key for students to understand the “basics” of cybersecurity so they can make informed decisions about their future education pathway.  In addition to learning about cybersecurity, the students had the opportunity to hear from major Arizona employers. Representatives from APS, Charles Schwab, Merchants Information Systems, City of Phoenix, and Terra Verde invested their time to make presentations so the students could learn firsthand about these companies’ cyber policies and hiring criteria.

Phoenix Coding Academy is in its second year as a school, so this was the first time the school’s students had the opportunity to be involved in a program like this. Although it was a new experience, the students said they were glad they volunteered to participate.

One student said his favorite part about the course was hands-on in the cyber lab. “The lab was the coolest thing. We all sat next to each other, talked to each other, and we helped each other out.”

Another student said this course caused him to consider a career in cybersecurity. “After taking this course, I have a much better plan of what I need to do to prepare for a cybersecurity job. I would definitely say I am much more interested now.”

Stephen Andrews, the Networking and Security Instructor at Phoenix Coding Academy, said the school plans to give students the opportunity to engage in more activities similar to Cyber-Dive Week in the future. “We are in the planning stages of building a security cyber lab here at the school.”

The Chamber, AZ Tech Council and ABL are taking this concept to many other local schools and are already planning for many more “cyber dives”! After all, high school students and cybersecurity are both part of our future security!

Susan Morris is one of the founders of ABL Cyber Academy, an Arizona licensed post-secondary vocational school with a focus on IT and cyber security training. The ABL Cyber Lab is a collaborative space for students to come together, study, learn new skills, and practice ethical hacking in a safe environment under the guidance of the Lab mentors and tutors. Susan and her business partner, Tom Jenkins, devote their time and talent to the AZ Cybersecurity Workforce Collaborative.

Interested in contributing to the #AZCyberTalent blog?

Send an email with your submission idea(s) to