Tampa’s Thriving Ecosystem Highlights Efforts to Recruit and Train Girls and Hispanics into Cyber Workforce   

March 28, 2024

This week in Florida, Acting Principal Deputy National Cyber Director (APDNCD) Jake Braun highlighted President Biden’s Investing In America Agenda through a series of engagements with Tampa-area stakeholders. The engagements with industry, academia, military, non-profits, and local government further emphasized how the National Cybersecurity Strategy (NCS) and the National Cyber Workforce Education Strategy (NCWES) align with the President’s agenda to boost cyber workforce opportunities across all industries.

As part of the National Cyber Workforce Education Roadshow, APDNCD Braun visited Tampa and met with senior leaders of Cyber Florida to learn about local best practices to expand the nation’s cyber workforce. Since 2014, Cyber Florida has built a robust pipeline of future cyber professionals by introducing cyber awareness programs to K-12 schools and helping Florida’s public colleges and universities offer degree and certificate programs that produce ready-to-hire graduates. APDNCD Braun thanked Cyber Florida for providing valuable input on the National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy, which the Biden-Harris Administration released last July.

APDNCD Braun also toured an agricultural-focused artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics hub being established by the University of Florida (UF), located at a UF research and education center just south of Tampa. This new $30 million, 35,000-square-foot facility is expected to break ground soon and will employ nearly 200 personnel focused on the research and development of AI. The Office of the National Cyber Director is proud to have inspired collaboration between the AI hub and the Florida Institute of Cybersecurity Research to ensure cybersecurity is infused into its AI-related projects and academic programs.

One of the highlights of the trip was APDNCD Braun’s participation in a regional cyber stakeholder roundtable in which business, non-profit, and academic leaders shared their innovative solutions around cyber workforce growth and sustainability in the Tampa region and beyond. The dialogue underscored the ongoing collaboration across the state and presented opportunities for new partnerships among attendees.

APDNCD’s visit culminated in a fireside chat alongside Cyber Florida’s Director, Ernie Ferraresso, at the Sunshine Cyber Conference. In front of cybersecurity and IT practitioners, educators, researchers, students, small and medium-sized business owners, non-profit organizations, law enforcement officials, and state and local government leaders, APDNCD Braun praised the people of the Tampa area for “cultivating a regional cyber ecosystem that is clearly thriving. We’ve learned so much here about what’s working, and we’re going to take that back to DC and amplify your achievements.”

In his remarks, he emphasized how the federal government is responding to the challenge of filling over 500,000 good-paying, middle-class cyber jobs currently open around the country, including over 30,000 vacancies in Florida, with 7,000 job openings in the Tampa metro area. He encouraged the audience to work within their communities to leverage Investing In America resources to identify infrastructure projects in need of cybersecurity and proactively incorporate those considerations on the front end to mitigate the potential for disruptions to the systems which Americans rely on daily. A recurring theme of the trip was the importance of including underrepresented groups in the diverse cyber workforce opportunities that these investments will create.

To support this goal of cybersecurity preparedness in Tampa and across Florida, President Biden’s Investing In America Agenda has delivered significant funding to the Sunshine State, including:

  • $3.1B in funding to provide affordable, reliable, high-speed internet to everyone in Florida;
  • Through the Affordable Connectivity Program, 1.7M households in Florida are saving $30-75 per month on high-speed internet;
  • $10.7B has been announced for transportation investments in roads, bridges, public transit, ports, and airports, as well as electric school and transit buses, electric vehicle charging, and more;
  • $1.4B has been allocated to infrastructure resilience in 2022 and 2023 to bolster resilience against pressing challenges like impacts of climate change, extreme weather events, and other hazards like cyberattacks, and
  • $11.1M through the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant to address cybersecurity risks and cybersecurity threats to information systems that they own or operate.

During the first three years of the Biden-Harris Administration, private companies have announced $32B in commitments to invest in Florida’s rapidly growing 21st-century industries.

Today, the Administration announced the following new commitments to build the nation’s cyber workforce:

Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC)

The University of Florida’s GCREC, a center that provides research solutions to growers for numerous commodities grown in Florida, commits to establishing and growing the Center for Applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the next three years. The GCREC will be a research and development hub focused solely on using AI and robotics to address production limitations identified by the agricultural and natural resource industries. Cybersecurity will be infused across the hub’s efforts through a collaboration with the Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research. The Center for AI facility will have 35,000 square feet, which will include a state-of-the-art research shop equipped with everything needed to design and build robotic technologies for agriculture and meeting spaces to be used as a central hub for training in AI and robotic technologies. GCREC expects to hire 15 faculty, 50 graduate students, and 100 additional personnel to support the new Center for AI.

502 Project

The 502 Project is a non-profit that partners with educational institutions, community groups, and industry leaders to provide a more inclusive and accessible gateway to the cybersecurity community through national virtual events, community-developed challenges, and access to subject matter experts from teenage whiz-kids to Chief Security Officers. In addition to supporting camps, clubs, competitions, and colleges through their social platform, the 502 Project commits $500,000 to research effective community-grounded education in the cybersecurity ecosystem, culminating in a public report in January 2025. As part of this effort, the 502 Project will also scale its community to at least 20 participating partners and 2,500 active members nationwide.

Girls Who Hack

Girls Who Hack, a non-profit committed to bringing more diversity to the cybersecurity workforce, commits to educating over 500 girls over the next two years with free online and in-person classes that teach girls hacking skills so that they can change the future. To expand this mission further, Girls Who Hack is also creating a new initiative to extend the reach of their in-person classes by bringing in female industry leaders to both teach and inspire more students with a continued focus on providing resources to underprivileged areas.

Raíces Cyber Organization

Raíces Cyber is a non-profit dedicated to creating accessibility to cybersecurity careers and opportunities through upskilling and reskilling the Hispanic, Latino, Latina, LatinX, and allied communities. Raíces Cyber commits to providing free training, education, and exposure to cybersecurity for at least 10,000 individuals over the next two years. Raíces Cyber is enhancing a pipeline for non-degree professionals to enter cyber careers by expanding the Raíces Cyber Academy, including offering an additional 750 industry certification scholarships to deserving students and strengthening the Raíces Cyber Youth Corps.

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