Toyota Grant Powers Dallas Cybersecurity Cohort
This July, Per Scholas’s Dallas campus will be graduating its second cohort of a new cybersecurity course, made possible by a generous $350,000 grant from Toyota, a champion Per Scholas partner since 2020.
The course was conceptualized before the start of the Covid pandemic and, in addition to a software engineering course, was one of two new courses introduced for Dallas learners during the pandemic.
The course has played a tremendous role in increasing the number of women being trained at the Dallas campus, a long-time goal of Stephanie Valadez, the Per Scholas Dallas Managing Director. The initial cybersecurity cohort was composed of 61% women, bringing the Dallas campus to a current total of 40% women enrolled in 2020, a significant increase from previous years and, Valadez believes, a sign of tremendous success in recruiting women — a strong departure from the typically male-dominated tech field.
Valadez was particularly instrumental in designing the course, and partnering with the instructional team to build the course’s rigorous curriculum, which includes 15-weeks of CompTIA CYSA+ training and certification, customer service and professional development training, and more.
In order to ensure that the curriculum of the course met the needs of employers, a roundtable discussion was held with employers in February of 2020 at the Toyota North America Headquarters in Plano, TX. At this discussion, Per Scholas reviewed the curriculum with cybersecurity executives at 10 different companies, including Toyota, AT&T, Checkpoint, Pepsi Co., and Stack Path, and talked about what they hoped to achieve with course training.
“We had the roundtable discussion with employers to make sure that we were putting forth a strong curriculum that was going to mirror what they needed within their businesses,” Valadez said. “[The curriculum] was truly employer-informed.”
The course grant was designed to fund two cohorts of a cybersecurity course, as well as the creation of an Education Security Operations Center (ESOC) housed at the Downtown Dallas campus, which would provide the equipment and environment to mirror what learners would experience in the workplace.
Due to the pandemic, the center has not yet been built, but there are plans to complete the buildout later this year. Fortunately, course instructors Wycliffe Ikobe and Kayla Mejire (both graduates of Per Scholas Dallas themselves) have been able to leverage digital tools to mimic a similar environment and provide learners with all necessary experience.
Frederick Tsa, a graduate of the cybersecurity course’s first cohort, has been working in the cyber intelligence department of JP Morgan Chase for a few months now. Before Per Scholas, Tsa had an extensive academic background and had worked in a variety of different roles, but had no real experience with cybersecurity. During the pandemic, the company he was working at was having difficulties, and Tsa felt it was time for a change. He was interested in learning something new and pursuing cybersecurity, and he came across the Per Scholas course.
“What Per Scholas gave me was that ambition,” Tsa said. “Getting that industry certification and that training to be able to understand the basics of cybersecurity operations was something that helped me secure my job. From Per Scholas I learned a lot to the point where I was able to articulate that during the interviews and be able to make concise arguments to the point where I was offered the position.”
Athipong Yimsiriwattana, another graduate from Dallas’s first cybersecurity cohort, was working as a fleet service clerk for American Airlines until he was laid off due to the pandemic. Struggling to make ends meet, Yimsiriwattana decided to pursue a lifelong interest in technology and take Per Scholas’s free cybersecurity training course.
The salary for cybersecurity analysts is significantly higher than what Yimsiriwattana was making in his previous role, and he is currently interviewing for roles. “I will be doing something I love doing,” Yimsiriwattana told USA Today in an interview earlier this year about his incredible experience. With support from Toyota and the grant used for our Cybersecurity course, our graduates, like Yimsiriwattana, are able to take their careers to the next level and get the certifications needed to secure a job they are passionate about.
Sign up for our Monthly Impact Report
Your support makes a powerful difference in our ability to build a technology talent training solution that creates greater access and equity.