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FIU awarded over $2M to prepare students for careers in cybersecurity

FIU awarded over $2M to prepare students for careers in cybersecurity

August 24, 2022 at 10:52am

Cyber Florida has awarded FIU more than $2 million to fund four projects focused on educating and preparing students for careers in cybersecurity and information technology.  

These grants, funded by the Cybersecurity and Information Technology Pathways (Cyber/IT Pathways) program, will help expand FIU-led programs meant to address the national skills shortage in cybersecurity and information technology by providing research, professional development for students, K-12 outreach, and upskilling public and nonprofit organizations.  

“FIU is extremely proud to have four programs selected as a part of this grant,” said Elizabeth Béjar, interim provost of FIU. “The outcomes of these funded projects will further the impact of the Cybersecurity@FIU emerging preeminent program and highlight our ongoing commitment to research and development of best practices in this field.”  

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, cybersecurity jobs are projected to grow 33 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is significantly faster than the average of all other occupations. The CyberSeek Cybersecurity Supply/Demand Heat Map indicates that there are currently over 700,000 total cybersecurity job openings in the U.S. alone. Florida is the 4th state with the most job openings.  

The Cyber/IT Pathways program is a joint endeavor of the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Center for Cybersecurity (Cyber Florida) to inspire and prepare more students to pursue fulfilling and lucrative careers in cybersecurity/information technology (IT) while helping address the national skills shortage in these areas.   

“Cyber/IT Pathways represents a major investment in improving the readiness of Floridians to fill essential jobs in cybersecurity and IT,” said James Welsh, director of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology and Principal Investigator of the Florida Cyber/IT Pathways Program. "We are delighted to have Florida International University as a regional partner supporting this vital initiative and helping to ensure that Florida’s K-16 community is being well served by this grant opportunity.”  

As part of the Cyber/IT Pathways program’s $15.6 million initiative, the following FIU-led programs were selected for funding:  

Project HaHa” (Hands-on Hardware Security Education) was awarded $1.2 million in funding. The project, led by Professor Christian Poellabauer of the FIU Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences at the College of Engineering and Computing, focuses on broadening and diversifying hardware security education to meet the increasing cybersecurity needs across the state and the nation.  

The FIU Minecraft-based Cybersecurity Professional Development for K12 Teachers program was awarded $250,000 in funding. Led by Kemal Akkaya, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering with a joint courtesy appointment in the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences at the College of Engineering and Computing, the program aims to pursue a game-based approach to cybersecurity education by building on one of the most popular games amongst teenagers, Minecraft.  

The Cybersecurity Pathway for Public and Nonprofit Organizations program, led by Professor Sukumar Ganapati of the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, earned $680,000 in funding. This program will provide special online training and in-person workshops on cybersecurity and IT to professionals in public and nonprofit organizations to bolster their offerings in their curriculum for disadvantaged students.  

The FIU Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) Fellowship program earned over $280,000 in funding and is led by Hector Cadavid, deputy director of the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy. The CTI Fellowship program provides undergraduate and graduate students with a yearlong cybersecurity workforce pathway program that includes interdisciplinary academic training, mentorship, professional development, and guaranteed internships after the program. The program will also provide students with Security+ certification training and cover the costs of examinations.

This funding will further boost FIU’s quickly expanding cybersecurity programs and comes shortly after being awarded $2 million to develop artificial intelligence cybersecurity tools and leading the sold-out 2022 National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Conference, which focuses on exploring ways to develop a skilled cybersecurity workforce.