UWF awarded $6 million for critical cybersecurity program


Morgan Givens

The University of West Florida announces it will lead a coalition of 10 institutions designated as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity by establishing a program to address the critical national shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals in the U.S.

Lexi Miller, Staff Writer

 The National Security Agency (NSA) has chosen the University of West Florida (UWF) as the leader for a new workforce development program in cybersecurity. 

UWF was awarded a $6 million grant to fund The National Cybersecurity Workforce Development Program for the next two years. The University is one of 10 institutions chosen to develop a program that will address the national shortage in cybersecurity professionals.

“The Workforce Development project puts forth the UWF Center for Cybersecurity into the limelight of national significance,” Faculty Scholar and Professor, Dr. Guillermo Francia said.

The program will launch in spring 2021. The plan is to focus on recruiting transitioning military and first responders and preparing for the cybersecurity workforce and placing them into the critically needed cybersecurity positions. 

The workforce development project will emphasize three critical areas of the nation’s cybersecurity infrastructure which includes the defense industrial base, financial services and the energy sector.

The program’s curriculum is designed around a stackable development model. The on-ramping, off ramping program design, will work with students to find a specific pathway that best suits their education and work experience while taking their aptitude results and individual interests into account. This allows students to be placed on a level that is most suited for their individual needs. 

The program plan aligns with the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICS) Cybersecurity Workforce Framework. “We envision that flexible workforce career pathways supported by portable and verifiable credentials will enable the rapid expansion of the number of qualified cybersecurity professionals across the country,” Francia said. 

As students prepare to complete their requirements, the workforce development program will provide students with job placement resources and other services they need to get them into working roles.  

N.S.A. envisions that the workforce development program will assist in closing the gap in the critical national cybersecurity professionals shortage.

“As our nation becomes increasingly dependent on cyberspace, it is imperative that we actively defend and protect our stake in that space,” Francia said. 

Pursuing a career in the cybersecurity industry can bring many benefits to those interested in the field. Cybersecurity is in a constant state of evolution and allows for cybersecurity professionals to have an opportunity to work for the defense of the country while obtaining personal and financial rewards. 

For more information about the UWF Center for Cybersecurity visit  uwf.edu/cybersecurity.