The Florida Center for Cybersecurity, better known as Florida Cyber, will receive a $20 million grant provided by the Florida Department of Education in order to boost cybersecurity education and resources statewide. The program has hopes to bolster the state’s cybersecurity workforce as a burgeoning technology and cybersecurity regional industry presents itself statewide.
The program will initially operate at a regional scale, housed at the University of South Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis anticipates that the program’s future success could help provide expansions to schools in metro regions like Miami and Jacksonville.
Since 2019, cybersecurity program enrollment among students has risen nearly 40 percent, with 143,000 grade school students engaged in Information Technology (IT) academic pathways. With this new funding, state officials hope to double enrollment by 2024.
The initiative marks the first in the nation of its kind, offering students as young as 11 and 12 able to gain rudimentary and foundational skills for the sector of information technologies. DeSantis claims that there are more than 22,000 unfilled high-paying cyber security jobs within Florida, with hopes that the new program will help fulfill the vacant positions.
“You have the cyber end of things, which is typically viewed as something that is in a postsecondary framework because there’s so much opportunity and so much need, but one of the things we’ve wanted to do with all of this is start preparing people with skills prior to being in college,” said DeSantis. “We’ve worked really hard on the K through 12 system to get more cyber and IT science in the classroom. We’ve been able to get funding from the legislature to do that. This funding will be coordinated through the Florida Center for Cybersecurity to help middle school, high school, and college students obtain credentials.”
This initiative is built on the state’s Career and Technical Education audit and implementation of HB 1507 to shift K-12 and postsecondary course offerings in a manner that phases out low-demand, low-wage courses and introduces more high-demand, high-wage courses, stackable credentials, and pathways that best align Florida’s K-12 and postsecondary systems to workforce demands.
Florida’s entry into the tech and IT world has led to workers and businesses flocking to the state, adding more tech companies than any other state in the nation in 2021, according to a report published by CompTIA, a top trade associate of the IT sector.
Driven by rising prices and unfavorable tax regulations, tech companies at large relocated to The Sunshine State, landing in cities like Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville. According to the report, Florida added 2,715 tech businesses last year, placing ahead of established hubs like California and North Carolina.
DeSantis awarded a further $6 million to Osceola County in 2021 to expand the southern corridor of the county to connect with the NeoCity technological research and development district, creating a space for tech manufacturers, specifically those creating semiconductors, to enter Florida.
“Manufacturing is something that we need to do a better job of. We’ve worked really hard … to expand our manufacturing footprint and we want to continue doing that moving forward,” said DeSantis. “Semiconductors are a huge issue. If you look at how the supply chain works, we are overly dependent on foreign nations, including Taiwan, which is a good ally of ours but is one that is under really serious pressure by the CCP in China, so I think the more we can do manufacturing semiconductors here, the better off we’ll be.