The Cyber Aces Foundation is searching for the next class of cyber security leaders at local Delaware high schools.

The foundation recruits and trains students who demonstrate a high level of technical skill for the field of cyber security.

Gov. Markell joined Cyber Ace Founder Alan Paller at Charter School of Wilmington to kick off the state’s initiative to encourage students to participate in the program.

“The purpose of this visit today is to launch this Cyber Aces program, and it’s designed for everybody who has an interest in learning more about cyber security,” said Markell.

Participants don’t have to have any prior experience. Using the Cyber Aces website, interested students can take free courses and compete in state championships.

Markell said cyber security is a growing career field and educating students early can only help competition in the global marketplace when it comes to jobs.

“These kids are so plugged in technologically,” said Markell. “They bring so much to the equation. This is how they think, this is how they work and if we give them exposure early on, when they can be thinking about these cyber security issues as teenagers, imagine what they can do when they continue their education and get into the work force.”

While the program focuses on high school and college students, Markell added that it’s open to anyone over the age of 16 who has an interest in the filed.

“We have an issue across the country and an issue here in Delaware, that people who are coming back from the armed forces and are now veterans in this country, have some incredible skills but they’re not being employed at the same rate other Americans are,” said Markell. “So we want to support our veterans as well.”

Paller added that many of the foundation’s programs began in Delaware and the state remains a top performer on the national level.

“When the whole idea of finding the kids began five years ago, Sen. [Tom] Carper had a staffer from Delaware named Eric Hopkins,” explained Paller. “He and I and Sen. Carper began the whole U.S. cyber challenge as an experiment in Delaware. So Delaware was the place where all of these ideas were tested. We tried things that didn’t work, and we tried things and they began to work. Now, Delaware is way ahead of other people in terms of regular summer camps and getting a lot of college kids engaged.”

Anyone interested in Cyber Aces can register though the foundation’s website, www.cyberaces.org