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Triumph Grant to Help UWF Seek High-Tech Jobs

UWF Center for Cybersecurity

Locating and filling gaps in Northwest Florida’s high-tech workforce is the goal of a University of West Florida venture —Project 10-X — which is expecting a grant from Triumph Gulf Coast.

“Our ambition is to have a world-class workforce that will attract additional manufacturing and cyber-professionals from all over the world; [and] we want to be a top-notch education provider for these workforce skills,” said Nicole Gislason, an Assistant Vice President at the Haas Business Center.

Project 10-X is aimed at addressing shortages in — among other areas — additive and advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity. Gislason says so far, there’s been great success from their work in Florida’s Central time zone.

“The inland counties produce a lot of construction material; in Panama City they specialize heavily in the shipbuilding area,” Gislason said. “In Fort Walton Beach they do have a lot of ordnance and avionics. In Pensacola, we actually have a budding renewable sector, [and] wind turbine generators. One thing these organizations have in common is a great demand for skilled labor.”

Cybersecurity and manufacturing are undeniably intertwined, says Gislason, especially when it comes to the region’s defense contractors.

“We produce a lot of ordnance as well as aircraft parts and components,” Gislason said. “So you can imagine that that data that is [sic] related to those expenditures and those products needs to be secure. The [Department of Defense] mandates that each of the facilities doing work or business on contracts, maintains a certain level of cybersecurity.”

Nicole Gislason

One of the goals of the five-year Project 10-X is the creation of more than 3,000 “industry certifications,” issued by a third party that align with the Florida Career and Professional Education Act.

“And a great example of that would be ‘project management professional,’ by the Project Management Institute,” said Gislason. “They evaluate a given candidate’s performance on an exam, after having taken 35 hours of education and training, as well as their portfolio of work in project management.”

Another such ticket to be offered is for Certified Production Technician.

“That’s a basic-level certification,” said Gislason. “As they add workers to the front line, they also need to upskill those who may be going into automation; robotics, as well as other types of machining.”

In the project’s coverage area, Gislason says there are about 20,000 workers in high-tech manufacturing-related jobs, who earn on average of about $83,000 per year.

“Those jobs might require a college degree, but more often than not – they do not,” said Gislason. “So it’s important that we upskill the labor force to maintain and improve upon productivity.”

One example of an area industry that would benefit from the fruits of Project 10-X is ST Engineering.

“They, too, have an ambition to incorporate additive manufacturing in their facility,” Gislason said. “Much like Boeing and Fort Walton Machining in Fort Walton Beach, we have a need here in Pensacola to improve upon the workforce here.”

UWF has received provisional approval of the Triumph grant, subject to negotiating a term sheet – a document outlining the material terms and conditions of a business agreement – along with a legal contract. If all goes as planned, the project will receive $14.5 million in BP oil spill money, to go with $23 million from the school, for a total of more than $37 million.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.