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Equipping the workforce: Triumph Gulf Coast Board approves $11.5M grant for FSU PC’s ASCENT project

Jan Waddy

On Sept. 13, the Board of Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., approved an $11.5 million grant to provide partial funding to Florida State University Panama City’s Advancing Science and Career Education in New Technologies (ASCENT) project during a meeting in Crestview.

“We are excited to partner with Triumph Gulf Coast to develop our regional workforce,” said Randy Hanna, dean of FSU Panama City. “Having professionals who can fill the demand for emerging technologies is a benefit to our community, region and state. Florida State looks forward to working with Triumph to develop a comprehensive approach to meet these critical needs in Northwest Florida.”

Funded over a six-year period, the ASCENT project is designed to meet Northwest Florida’s workforce needs through education and training opportunities, with a focus on cybersecurity. The grant is expected to result in at least 3,280 industry-recognized certifications and credentials, including Florida Department of Education identified Career and Professional Education certificates, for students in the region. 

FSU’s College of Communication and Information, College of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences, along with FAMU-FSU College of Engineering will participate in the project. 

Larry Dennis, FSU iSchool professor and former dean of FSU’s College of Communication and Information, will play a leadership role in the project’s implementation. 

“The ASCENT project will include training opportunities for students and teachers at the secondary and post-secondary levels in addition to training for the regional workforce,” Dennis said. “Such ongoing training is necessary to build capacity in quickly growing and evolving areas, such as cybersecurity.”

Through K-12 partnerships, the ASCENT project aims to grow interest in emerging technologies among the area’s youth by providing support to career academies and summer camp programs. An Interdisciplinary Cybersecurity Hub will be established to support an IT degree planned for FSU PC’s campus.  It will be equipped with a modern Cyber Lab utilized to simulate and defend against cyberattacks. The Office for Professional Engagement and Learning (OPEL) will be established on FSU PC’s campus to offer customized training to meet the needs of local industries and the military by equipping non-degree-seeking students in the workforce. 

The awarding entity, Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., is a nonprofit corporation organized to oversee the expenditure of 75% of all funds recovered by the Florida attorney general for economic damages to the state that resulted from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., is required to administer the distribution of the funds for the recovery, diversification, and enhancement of the eight Northwest Florida counties disproportionately affected by the oil spill including Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton and Wakulla. 

Triumph Gulf Coast Board appointees include Chair Don Gaetz, Allan Bense, Reynolds Henderson, Ben Lee, Collier Merrill, Matt Terry and David Bear. 

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