Today is Safer Internet Day around the world, and to honour the occasion Santa Clara-based cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks has announced that is has joined forces with IBM Canada and the British Columbia Ministry of Education to launch the Palo Alto Networks Cybersecurity Academy.

The program’s mission is to educate high school students and “bridge the skills gap by preparing students for careers in cybersecurity,” a press release states. The 12-month program, which was piloted in select high schools across British Columbia, gives students hands-on training in the latest cyber threats and how best to deal with them.

The curriculum, developed in partnership with Palo Alto Networks, British Columbia’s Ministry of Education and IBM Canada, focuses on network security skills such as firewall installation, antivirus software and zero-day vulnerabilities. Palo Alto Networks set up more than 20 virtual labs for students to learn how to configure fundamental networking systems and firewall technology used to secure critical infrastructure.

Once students complete the 12-month course they’ll be eligible for a cybersecurity associate certificate, which could open doors to career opportunities. Currently, the program is only available in B.C.

“Students today are increasingly tech-savvy and connected now more than ever before,” said Rob Fleming, minister of education for British Columbia.”With the frequency of cyber attacks increasing, targeting both institutions and individuals, it is critical that we prepare students with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves and their data against such threats.”

“Public-private partnerships such as these are a testament to what can be achieved to support learning in high skill areas, such as cybersecurity,” said Krista Shibata, women in technology and STEM education lead at IBM Canada. “We are helping prepare the Canadian youth for new collar jobs. Nothing is more critical to our nation’s economic success.”

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