Ulster BOCES Cisco & Cybersecurity Test Out Pros

Ulster BOCES Cisco & Cybersecurity Test Out Pros

Students enrolled in the Ulster BOCES Hudson Valley Pathways Academy (HVPA) who also attend the Career & Technical Center’s Cisco & Cybersecurity program graduate with a college degree, are career-ready, and hold one of the industry’s most valuable tools—the TestOut Pro certification.

In addition to graduating from the six-year HVPA course of study with an associate’s degree, the TestOut Pro accreditation will make the students even more marketable to prospective Information Technology (IT) employers. Cisco & Cybersecurity instructor Dr. Kathy Landers explains that having this certification demonstrates a student’s ability to apply their education, training, experience, and proficiency in computer science. As a former IBM Consulting IT Specialist, Landers has been preparing students for the skill-based TestOut Pro Exams for 10 years because the certifications are considered to satisfy the industry standard.

HVPA students who enroll in the Cisco & Cybersecurity program spend two years at the Port Ewen and SUNY Ulster sites building a comprehensive foundation in computer hardware and operating systems, networking, and cybersecurity for college or to directly enter the IT field. The curriculum integrates academic instruction in NYS Common Core English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science, allowing students to earn additional credits. Successfully completing the program provides students with skills learned in SUNY Ulster’s computer labs, six college credits, industry connections, and several certifications.

Since Lander’s students have the ability to work in a computer lab, she says her program boasts a 100 percent certification pass rate. “If a student gets an 80 percent on an exam, we are not going to focus on the grade,” she said. “But since it’s important that their entire ‘network is up and working,’ it’s important for them to know what they got wrong.”

Cisco & Cybersecurity students also get hands-on experience during their school day at the Career & Technical Center by working with Ulster BOCES network support specialist Skip Salmi. He often takes the Cisco and Cybersecurity students to work with him so they can experience an “in-house” internship and be a part of the troubleshooting process. “It gives the students good hands-on experience,” Salmi said. “I am constantly giving the students feedback about communicating with venues, telling them the questions they need to ask to complete the task.”

Landers says many of her students go on to obtain more certifications and college degrees in their area of interest, and sometimes return to reconnect with her. When they do, she places them on her program’s advisory board to refine her lessons and ensure the program remains as current as possible with industry demands and trends. Although BOCES partners with Central Hudson and IBM for internships, the IT industry, she says, could include almost any business under the sun. “Whatever you’re interested in, there’s going to be computers there,” she said. “What’s unique about the program is how well prepared the students will be at graduation. It’s impressive that these kids go into the job market with a stack full of certifications and experience, and they are just out of high school,” Landers said.

Grade 11 student Sage Kummer of the Kingston City School District is contemplating entering the cyber field of penetration testing, and is working on her fourth Pro certification. She said the TestOut Pro certifications have pushed her into learning more. “The tests are hard, but I was prepared enough to be able to take them with my own personal growth and studying, as well as previous knowledge of my own.” 

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