Gov. Ron DeSantis hosted a news conference on the USF Tampa campus to announce a $20 million grant from the Florida Department of Education to Cyber Florida at USF to strengthen the state’s ability to fill high-demand careers in cybersecurity and information technology (IT).
Joined by several USF and local high school students, the governor explained that Cyber Florida will work with regional partners to start training students in as young as in middle school – helping build the skillset required to meet the cybersecurity needs of public sector agencies, businesses and industries.
“USF has been recognized as a leader in IT and in cyber. They even partnered with United States Special Operations Command, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, to help develop new technologies and programs that can improve our national defense,” DeSantis told the audience at the Sam & Martha Gibbons Alumni Center.
Multiple cybersecurity firms have attributed their recent decisions to relocate or create jobs in the Tampa Bay region in part due to USF’s talent pipeline and the university’s collaboration with the military.
“We all know how important cybersecurity is and I think when you look around the world right now and everything that’s taken place, there’s a recognition that this is the new area of warfare and there’s nothing more important for our country and our state than for people to be safe and secure,” said Will Weatherford, chair of the USF Board of Trustees. “One of the things we can do is to make sure we have strong cybersecurity.”
“We are at risk at a strategic level, and we must do the things to get our students interested, enrolled and skilled in cybersecurity,” said Mike McConnell, executive director of Cyber Florida.
Cyber Florida, officially known as the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, was established by the Florida Legislature in 2014. In addition to enhancing the state’s cybersecurity workforce, it facilitates job creation with an emphasis on the defense, finance, health care, transportation and utility sectors. There are nearly 22,000 unfilled cybersecurity-related jobs in Florida.
DeSantis says the new funding will be used to train new teachers and purchase training equipment to help middle school, high school and college students obtain credentials in cybersecurity. He hopes to see more than 300,000 students will be trained in IT and cybersecurity by 2024 – more than double the number of students enrolled in similar programming today.
In addition to USF, Cyber Florida will work with Florida International University to bolster cybersecurity training in K-12 schools in the Miami area.