GROVE CITY, Ohio — Data breaches and an ever-growing technology industry have produced a high demand for cyber security and mobile application workers. Now schools in central Ohio are shifting gears and offering new pathways for students to pursue. 

  • First class of mobile app students to graduate in May
  • Ohio Health opening door for students to intern in their cyber security department
  • Students with skills are already being pulled while in college to fill demand for jobs

You might not have seen it a decade ago, but South-Western Career Academy in Grove City has now created mobile app and cyber security pathways for their students to pursue.

They say because there's such a high demand for workers in those areas, they wanted to prepare students now. And it seems to be working, as students are already snagging jobs.
Mobile applications instructor Derek Fitzer is helping students learn how to make an Ohio sales tax app run through MobileMakersEdu. Asking a few questions to get started, Fitzer calls for one student to begin coding, while the others watch and then catch up and code themselves. 

"We will practice them in situations like this where it's just basically getting an idea and testing it and working with it and then as we move on more and more, I ask students to synthesize something new from that, so make a creative solution of their own,” Fitzer explained. 
Now in his second year of teaching the class, Fitzer is learning along with them, since technology keeps changing as fast as it's introduced.

"I'm kind of right there with the students sometimes and especially in computer science. It is not uncommon for one of my students to solve a problem faster than I do," said Fitzer.

 As students learn how to design and develop apps, Fitzer said student interest in the new pathway continues to grow. And that's good because there's a big push from industry employers to get people with those skills who can communicate effectively into jobs right away.

Right now, there are more than 250,000 mobile app jobs available, where students can make over $100,000 if they're trained and skilled.

"Especially at the college level, students in application development programs are getting pulled away by employers," Fitzer said.

The same goes for those working in cyber security, where millions of jobs are open.

In the classroom next door, Walter Billops and his classmates work as a team to identify security threats and strengthen security systems in the state's only full-scale lab. But they're learning about the demand first-hand, as they look to land internships at local companies in need.

"There was a hiring company called Dawson that we interviewed for,” said the 17-year-old. “They were talking about how there was such a lack in people who did cyber security that they had to have IT professionals take some classes like ours to actually get them able to do it."
Whether it's the networking, software development or programming side of things, most in the group, including Billops, say this opportunity gives them an adrenaline rush.

"That adrenaline rush comes from when I'm programming and then I see the progression of my programming working like, oh shoot... I finally got this part done...time to move on to the next part. Then I start working harder and harder," said Billops.

But more than that, building their computer science skills this way gives them the tools they need to work with real world clients now and that intrigues them.

"We kind of learn like, oh shoot, I just made this better. And then you just kind of keep looking for things to make better. It's just like having that as an actual job would be kind of fun," said Billops.

Fun and rewarding, as they know they'll be helping and protecting people, while filling a big demand no matter which path they choose. 
South-Western Career Academy currently offers a two-year program where students learn app and software development, along with cyber security.

In their senior year, they can do internships. Several have already landed positions at places like Ohio Health, while others who've recently graduated are already working in their respective fields.  Partnerships with Apple and Columbus State Community College are helping to make that possible.

Columbus City Schools is another district offering a similar program.