Trained for boom in terror industry

21st July 2006 at 01:00

A Maryland secondary school will take pupils through simu-lated terrorist attacks as it pioneers attempts to teach them how to fight terrorism and foil cyber thieves.

Pupils at Joppatowne high school will take classes looking at chemical and biological threats, emergency preparedness and cyber-security. They will also do work experience at America's leading chemical and biological defence laboratory from September next year.

The school is pioneering the first "homeland security" curriculum. Fifty 14-year-old pupils a year - rising eventually to 200 - will be admitted to a four-year homeland security "magnet" programme, being jointly developed at their school by the US military's Edgewood chemical biological center and local education officials. They will also be able to apply for internships at Edgewood.

Frank Mezzanotte, technology education supervisor at Harford county, said the curriculum is aimed squarely at the booming post-911 security market.

He hopes it will serve as a blueprint for schools across America to adopt.

Jeanne-Marie Holly, career and technology education programme manager at Maryland's education department, said: "We've done labour market research determining that this is an up-and-coming field where high-end careers will be available for students."

The sprawling Department of Homeland Security is America's third-largest government employer, with more than 180,000 staff. There is also surging demand for security experts from state and local government agencies, emergency services and private industry.

Earlier this year, the military base near the Maryland school was picked as the centre for what will be America's largest anti-terrorism training centre, featuring a mock airport.

Homeland security courses are also proliferating in higher education, with a growing number of US campuses launching degrees in homeland security studies. The National Academic Consortium counts 330 member institutions, offering homeland security courses.

But the Maryland initiative represents the first of its kind in America's school system, according to Mr Mezzanotte. It includes ties with private firms, as well as the US military and local emergency services.

"Homeland security is a huge area that's not going to go away in the near future. It's where the jobs will be, so we might as well get our kids aligned," he said.

Students enrolling in the programme will be given the option of studying advanced level chemistry and biology.

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