Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2021

Thanks to strategic partners like PricewaterhouseCoopers, AIM students beneft from an assortment of vocational experiences.

New Cyber-Autism initiative combines elements of two successful programs 85% – The unemployment rate for individuals on the autism spectrum 3.5 million – The number of unflled cybersecurity jobs (per Cybersecurity Ventures)

There’s much research about the capacity of people with high-functioning autism to satisfy the demands of many careers in the cybersecurity industry. Their strengths include cognitive pattern recognition, attention to detail, logical and methodical thinking, focus, and integrity. Despite this documented correlation, few, if any, have capitalized on this opportunity – until now. Mercyhurst University, in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), is on the cusp of launching a frst-of-its-kind Cyber-Autism Pilot Program to capitalize on the skills of students on the spectrum and prepare them for jobs in the cybersecurity realm, thereby helping to satisfy a pressing, global need. The Cyber-Autism Pilot Program blends the strengths of the award-winning Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) and the

university’s fourishing cybersecurity program. PwC is providing seed funding for the initiative and internship opportunities for students in the cohort. Mercyhurst developed the new program based on the success of similar international models. Faced with daunting shortages of trained cybersecurity professionals, countries around the world – including England, Australia, and Israel – have begun to tap nontraditional pools of talent to fll these vital jobs. As a model and a resource for universities across the country, AIM has also been selected by the White House to provide support in developing neurodiversity in the cybersecurity feld for federal agencies. University ofcials believe this new program will shift the paradigm in how corporate America thinks about hiring and employing individuals on the autism spectrum.

AIM Director Brad McGarry was equally enthused. “I am very excited that our longstanding partnership with PwC has

evolved to bring this fantastic collaboration to light,” McGarry said. “Since 2015, AIM students have participated in vocational exposure experiences at PwC in New York City and Tysons Corner, Virginia, and this new venture will better prepare and position our AIM students for sustainable and meaningful employment, especially in the cybersecurity feld.” Mercyhurst’s cybersecurity initiative, meanwhile, hosts a four-year undergraduate major and graduate program within the Ridge College of Intelligence Studies and Applied Sciences. The Ridge College is the oldest and largest school of intelligence studies in the United States.


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