Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania is teaming up with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in a unique program to prepare autistic students for high-paying cybersecurity jobs.

Mercyhurst announced plans to combine its award-winning Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM) with its cybersecurity program to create the Cyber-Autism Pilot Program in fall 2021.

Calling the project a “game-changer,” Mercyhurst President Michael T. Victor said the program will “address the exploding demand for cybersecurity professionals and the ongoing need for meaningful career opportunities for our students on the [autism] spectrum.”

Faced with shortages of cybersecurity personnel, countries like England and Australia have now begun to tap into non-traditional talent pools. Mercyhurst plans to make use of this opportunity. Research shows how people with autism are ideally suited for cybersecurity jobs — findings upon which the university based its rationale for the new program.

How the New Program Will Roll Out

PwC is providing seed money for the program including costs for advertisements, travel, marketing, recruitment, and staffing. The organization will also provide internship opportunities for students.

The new venture will recruit 10 students on the spectrum to join the pilot program. The students will be provided with support and mentorship consistent with the AIM program although their evaluation will be done following the same academic standards as all students.

Mercyhurst’s Vice President for External Affairs, Caleb Pifer, believes that the program would be the first of its kind in academia and will help “shift the paradigm in how corporate America thinks about hiring and employing individuals on the autism spectrum.”