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UWF Gets $350,000 To Help Military Families Jumpstart IT Careers

UWF Innovation Institute

The University of West Florida will receive $350,000 to develop courses and provide scholarships for military service members and their families. The new program will be a partnership between the University's HAAS Center and the Innovation Institute at UWF.  Dr. Pam Northrup is Associate Provost of the University of West Florida and the Executive Director of the UWF Innovation Institute, she spoke about the new program with WUWF's Bob Barrett.

Highlights from Dr. Pam Northrup:

"This is a competitive process so we applied for the grant sometime in the summers and there were  places all over the state that applied for funding to help military families across a variety of factors and we worked together with the Haas Center, developed a proposal, submitted it to the  defense task force fund, did a presentation in Tallahassee and were one of the lucky people that were awarded these dollars."

On who the program benefits:

"This is aimed at helping military veterans and families. So anyone who is military or military related, family member, a dependent, this is an opportunity for them to go back to school. The reason why we're working with the Haas Center, UWF Haas Center and the UWF Innovation Institute partnering together, they do a great deal of work on data analysis, on jobs that are coming in the future, jobs that are here now, workforce demands, and the Innovation Institute can use that information to build out certifications, trainings, to help support people as they are interested in going back to school or getting that one certificate that will help them move on to that next thing."

What fields or majors will this apply to?

"It's aimed at information technology and cyber security. What we know is, in Florida, there are about 250,000 IT jobs around the state of Florida. We also know there are right around 8,000 cyber security jobs in Florida. Those aren't all in northwest Florida but there are quite a few here. We know that we want to provide opportunities to military members and their families to move into positions or get that next position. IT positions are portable positions so as they move from place to place people can take those skills with them."

Who qualifies?

"Being a veteran or family member is thing one. As part of this money we are awarding $75,000 in scholarships, so multiple scholarships, to support this initiative, we'll have a website up in about a week that will provide details on how people can apply for scholarships but then begin to have information about different classes that will be available, industry certifications, courses that may lead to certificates, all of that will start being posted so people can begin planning."

"This program will fold right into our Center for Cyber Security, which is up and running, we have degree programs that are underway. We have events for kids: CoderDojo and Cyberthon and all kinds of fun things to help inspire and engage kids to move into the IT and cyber security fields. This will add to that by offering certificates and industry certifications, because in some cases people may already have a degree and they just need that extra thing to help them move into a new position. Or they may decide, once they participate in some of these certificates, that they want to go back to school and finish a degree in cyber security: and we have several different options for them there."

"[Students] will start class in March. So we have to get things up and functional and get processes in place. The advantage for us is that in addition to the Center for Cyber Security we also have the statewide program Complete Florida that is focused on people with some college and no degree, getting them back to college to finish, we have coaches already in place, we already have the support infrastructure in place to help people make decisions that they feel are best for them."

How many people will be able to take advantage of this?

"We have scholarship money available for people who need scholarships but then of course it would be available for other military veterans and families. We're not setting a cap on this, I think as many people as we can get through the program the better it will be for the community and for the service members and their families to be able to build skills for their future."

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.