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FIU aims to fill thousands of cyber-security vacancies through apprenticeship program

With a $2-million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Florida International University has launched an apprenticeship program in cyber-security. The program — the first of its kind in Florida — aims to train up to 800 apprentices for cyber-security jobs over the next four years.

“This training will not only be helpful for new grads, but it’s also really important for folks who have good jobs and want to keep them and advance,” says the grant’s co-principal investigator, Bridgette Cram, assistant vice president for academic and student affairs at FIU. “After COVID, we’re seeing that the focus on up-skilling and re-skilling is even more critical because the nature of work changes so quickly.”

According to Cyber Seek, South Florida has more than 5,000 unfilled cyber-security jobs. Statewide, the number tops 21,000.

FIU’s paid, yearlong program will pair apprentices with local businesses looking to hire cyber-security employees or to train their current employees for cyber-security jobs. Apprentices will work full-time at the businesses and receive career-related, technical instruction in partnership with FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing. FIU also will provide exam preparation to apprentices for industry certifications.

FIU worked with the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation and a number of industry players, including Cylance, ForeScout Technologies and McAfee, to develop the program, Cram says. She adds that apprenticeships, while common in the construction industry, are a novelty in technology.

“The overall goal of the grant is to expand the notion of working-earning-learning,” Cram says. “One of the hallmarks of apprenticeships is that you make a wage, and that wage is supposed to increase over the course of the apprenticeship as you demonstrate a certain number of competencies or earn a certification.”

Last fall, FIU launched a bachelor’s degree program in cyber-security, adding to its master’s program in the field.