Why High Schools of the Future initiative by LSC, BofA will have immediate impact

Pilot program will have Hudson County high schoolers training for in-demand cybersecurity jobs, including some at Bank of America

It’s nice to be all-in on the vision and mission of Liberty Science Center and the soon-to-be-built SciTech Scity — both of which aim to inspire and develop the next generation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics experts, the type of thinkers who will impact and influence the world in amazing ways.

Paul Hoffman. (File photos)

And, to be clear, there is every reason to believe that this will be the ultimate outcome.

But it’s something else to be operating in the here and now. That’s what the High Schools of the Future pilot program being announced Tuesday is all about.

The program, sponsored by Liberty Science Center and Bank of America, is being offered in two Hudson County schools — James J. Ferris High School in Jersey City and Memorial High School in West New York. It will train 11th-graders for careers in cybersecurity, starting this fall. Here’s how it will work:

  • The two-year pilot will serve 20-30 students from each school and aim to teach them career-ready skills that are highly valuable for high-earning careers and the rapidly developing STEM labor markets;

How your company can help

Liberty Science Center and SciTech Scity are seeking other high-employment companies in New Jersey to join Bank of America in the High Schools of the Future initiative.

LSC currently is in the process of identifying key professional job partners and skill needs, developing curriculum and establishing training protocols. In addition to cybersecurity, other areas that have already been identified for training include the financial service industry and the energy industry.

Corporate partnerships will enhance high school training in order to:

  • Improve job readiness of students, particularly those from underserved communities, in a rapidly changing working world;
  • Offer meaningful job opportunities with transferable skills upon graduation and successful completion of the program;
  • Pilot two schools with the goal of developing a STEM job-readiness program that can be scaled up to other high schools across New Jersey and even the rest of the country.

CEO Paul Hoffman said LSC is obtaining commitments from New Jersey companies to offer jobs to students who successfully complete the program, calling it “a win for the students, their families and for the companies who save on recruiting and training costs.”

  • The program will give students the skills and training needed to prepare them for what have been termed “new collar” jobs, those in emerging technology fields. The initial focus will be on cybersecurity, and jobs in cybersecurity that don’t require extensive coding skills;
  • The program will put students into an accelerated, two-year professional job training program to build their STEM skills and job readiness through school-year programming and summer experiences;
  • Students who successfully complete these accelerated learning paths, and meet their conditions for employment, will be offered quality jobs at BofA as employees focused on emerging technologies.

The need for highly skilled cybersecurity professionals has never been greater, as cyberattacks continue to impact all aspects of life, from government agencies to Fortune 500 companies. Despite this, there is a significant dearth of trained individuals to meet this urgency. Some estimate that there are 500,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S., and more than four million globally.

Paul Hoffman, the CEO and visionary of Liberty Science Center, said the organization is eager to step up.

“LSC is ready to respond to a critical need for enhanced jobs-readiness training for high school students, helping them attain STEM skills that will enable them to get jobs upon graduation if they choose to enter the workforce,” he said. “And, with the plethora of malware, ransomware, phishing attacks and other cyberattacks surging and negatively impacting so many individuals, companies and organizations here in the U.S. and across the globe, the pilot program in cybersecurity is a natural first step in fulfilling this mission.”

Alberto Garofalo.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that “information security analyst” will be the 10th-fastest-growing occupation over the next decade, with an employment growth rate of 31% (compared to the 4% average growth rate for all occupations). Right now in New Jersey, there are 1.4 open STEM jobs for every unemployed person.

Alberto Garofalo, Bank of America New Jersey president, said the program aligns with the bank’s mission to be an economic engine for the communities it serves.

About SciTech Scity

SciTech Scity will be a “City of Tomorrow” where companies and researchers test — and residents and visitors experience — new high-tech products and services before they come to market. The first phase, scheduled to fully open in 2025, includes:

  • Edge Works: A central location for innovation comprising two distinct hubs. The Works will have four floors of labs, research and development spaces, offices and coworking areas for early stage science and technology businesses. The Co-Creation Center will be a state-of-the-art conference center and tech exhibition gallery;
  • Scholars Village: Housing being developed by Alpine Residential for innovators, scientists, entrepreneurs, STEM graduate students, and individuals and families who desire to be a part of the SciTech Scity community;
  • Public Commons: Five-acre outdoor park with activations that encourage exploration, creativity, collaboration and innovation. An events plaza for concerts, farmers markets, art exhibitions and food-truck festivals;
  • Liberty Science Center High School: A countywide public magnet STEM academy that will be operated by the Hudson County Schools of Technology and offer world-class programming in mathematics, engineering, computer sciences and basic sciences to students in grades 9-12. LSC will offer companion programs to middle-school students from high-needs communities in Jersey City and Hudson County who are interested in the sciences and aspire to attend the new institution.

“Supporting the Liberty Science Center on the High Schools of the Future initiative is another way we’re helping to prepare a diverse pipeline of students to be successful in STEM careers,” he said. “Simply put, more STEM jobs exist than there are qualified candidates to fill them.

“Our goals in partnering with Liberty Science Center on the High Schools of the Future initiative include addressing minority scholarship, professional training programs and curriculum building to help ensure student success while also uplifting underserved communities through workforce development.”

Deneen Alford, principal of Ferris High School, is thrilled to be a partner in the initiative — and appreciates what it means for her community.

“According to the National Center for Education Statistics, young adults with bachelor’s or higher degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics tend to have more positive economic outcomes,” she said. “However, the percentage of Hispanic, Pacific Island, and African American students with STEM degrees tends to be much lower than other races/ethnicities. My student population at James J. Ferris High School is very diverse. My goal is to create well-rounded citizens with a social conscience that enables them to serve the community and meet the challenges of an ever-changing world.”

Clara Brito Herrera, superintendent of West New York schools, echoed these sentiments.

“The West New York School District is committed to inspiring students and providing them with the skills necessary to fill the careers of the 21st century,” she said. “This partnership is a great opportunity for students pursuing careers in this emerging STEM job market.”

Hoffman said it’s all part of the greater vision.

“Since our inception more than 25 years ago, one of our primary goals has been to be a catalyst for improved student STEM learning in New Jersey’s most underserved communities,” he said. “This goal is more urgent than ever, because the pandemic has unfortunately deepened educational disparities between the state’s lowest-income neighborhoods and better resourced areas.”