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July 7, 2016 7:31 am

Cybersecurity Training Program for Israeli High School Students Extends Recruitment to Include Younger Kids

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Students in the Magshimim  program, which was launched in 2012. Photo:

Students in the Magshimim program, which was launched in 2012. Photo:

An after-school cybersecurity training program for Israeli high school students is looking to expand its recruitment to include younger kids, Slate reported on Wednesday.

The program, Magshimim, which was specifically designed to enlist 10th-12th-ers from underrepresented and underprivileged backgrounds, is now seeking eighth- and ninth-graders, and hopes to increase the number of students from approximately 400 students to 4,800 over the next five years.

Applicants undergo a series of tests and interviews before being accepted into Magshimim, which targets teens who show a “strong academic potential and computer aptitude, as well as commitment and self-discipline.” If accepted into the program, they attend three-hour cybersecurity training sessions twice a week for three years. Throughout the course, they work on programming projects, visit high-tech companies and Intelligence Corps units, and study computing theory and computer networking. Participants also engage in “Cyber Nights” and other events that include fun and motivating military or law-enforcement exercises, according to Slate.

The national program was launched in 2011 by the Rashi Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused on supporting underprivileged Israeli youth, and has been co-sponsored by the Israeli Defense Ministry since 2013. Magshimim accepts roughly 30 percent of the students who apply, and more than 530 students have successfully completed the after-school initiative.

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Teens who complete Magshimim finish high school with a skill set typical of college students studying computer science, and many of them become fluent in English, Slate reported.

Magshimim said that the program was created with the intention of grooming teens to enter the Israel Defense Force’s elite cyber-branches during their military service. As its website states, “In view of the growing need for cyber specialists, the Magshimim program was initiated in the belief that nurturing the talents of youth in the periphery will expand the pool of candidates to serve in the IDF’s elite technological units, particularly in the Intelligence Corps, and eventually to lead the high-tech industry in Israel.”

One Magshimim participant told Slate, “We are a little country, and we have a lot of enemies, so we need to secure our data. When we were just kids, we didn’t have anything we could do about these threats, but now when we are getting into the army, we finally have the power to do something about it.”

Another student said, “I really want to go to the army and contribute. My dream is maybe to stay in the army.”

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