The State of Tech: ITEN WIRED Summit Speakers talk Tech

The State of Tech: ITEN WIRED Summit Speakers talk Tech

The State of Tech – Published in Pensacola Magazine

Note: The ITEN WIRED Summit Planning Board has decided to cancel the October 6-8, 2021 Summit. We weighed heavily on the uncertainty of the future status of COVID-19 and being able to ensure a safe environment. The summit’s value and experience for attendees, speakers, and sponsors, relies heavily on an agenda that allows for networking and small sessions that are such a crucial element of the summit.

We are pleased to confirm that the Career Expo on October 6 will be held on an all-virtual platform. We are working with Clark University’s Tech Quest and CareerSource Tampa Bay to provide this valuable opportunity to our tech community. The Expo will be free of charge and registration information will be announced soon.

Right now, the U.S. has nearly half a million job openings in cybersecurity. One of the fastest-growing business sectors in the world, cybersecurity opportunities are exploding right here along the Gulf Coast. Anticipating this growth, the ITEN WIRED Summit presented by Leidos has been preparing talent pools and businesses since 2008.

The Innovation Technology Entrepreneurship Network, or ITEN, was created as an economic development initiative to connect, collaborate and build community with industry leaders, entrepreneurs and educators on innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.

Initiated by the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, the annual event is now in its 13th year and hosted by IT Gulf Coast and FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance.

FloridaWest’s mission is to build, sustain and grow the economic potential and prosperity of Northwest Florida. Scott Luth, FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance CEO, says the event engages stakeholders critical to growing this business sector in our region.

“The ITEN Wired Conference has been an instrumental part of our overall strategy to grow our cybersecurity and information technology sector,” said Luth. “It’s the one time of year when our educational community and business partners come together to network, share best practices and to push forward our mission of growth in this community. And this wouldn’t be possible without growth in local talent development.”

Pensacola area institutions of higher learning have seen doubling and tripling enrollment as they roll out bigger and better programs for students. Schools like the University of West Florida, Pensacola Christian College and Pensacola State College’s new Donald McMahon III Center for Cybersecurity are ramping up programs to meet the demand from students and to introduce them to the business.

The summit showcases the latest and best practices and technology in an environment where students can ask questions and learn more about future careers in IT and cybersecurity. The ITEN WIRED Career Expo presented by Clark University/Tech Quest Grant is the first day of the event, October 6.

Dr. Ed Meadows, President of Pensacola State College, said they are seeing a growing interest among students in cybersecurity and information technology.

“The ITEN Wired Summit provides much needed exposure for the IT field,” said Dr. Meadows. “It’s so valuable for our students to be able to network with local businesses and learn about advancements that are being made — It’s a never-ending cycle of change that our students have to keep up with.”

“And at our Donald McMahon III Center for Cybersecurity, we can simulate the world of work with two war rooms geared for real-world action,” he said. “Right now, more than 400 students are enrolled in our cybersecurity associate and baccalaureate degree programs. Northwest Florida is getting known as a cybersecurity hub and our economic development partners are steadily recruiting firms to locate in NWFL. They are touting the talent pipeline for new firms and showcasing a solid base of cyber businesses in NWFL and a continuous and stable stream of workforce training that takes place at our colleges and universities.”

As Colleges build the pipelines for the talent pools, area high schools also are addressing educational needs. Steve Harrell, Workforce Education Director for Escambia County School District, said Escambia County is preparing more and more students for jobs in this sector.

“The school District of Escambia County has been working closely with our partners to deliver quality Cybersecurity instruction and real-world experiences to students in our Cybersecurity Academy at Pine Forest High School,” said Harrell. “Escambia County School District knows the importance of students and teachers attending the ITEN WIRED Conference, and we facilitate their participation every year. The conference gives students and teachers a direct connection to the employers who are looking to hire the next-generation workforce of cybersecurity professionals.”

Jim Rhodes, director of ITEN WIRED presented by Leidos, said the conference is a great catalyst for creating interest in cybersecurity jobs for students, most of who are in high school.

“This event has become a huge draw for the local school systems,” said Rhodes. “A cybersecurity competition has added interest and is drawing students from across the region. Local schools are critical in addressing the talent shortage in the area and are partnering to help build a talent pipeline. More students need to be aware of what’s out there — there are plenty of jobs right here in our own backyard.”

The need for talent is so dire, the federal government is investing in programs to help. UWF recently received a grant from the NSA to develop a national workforce development program. Named UWF Cyberskills2Work, the program is geared toward transitioning military personal, veterans and first responders to cybersecurity jobs.

Adding to efforts from the federal government, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently released a guide to help prospective and current cyber professionals chart their career path. This tool is designed to help identify their job track and pinpoint areas for growth; understand work roles, tasks, and knowledge, skills, and abilities; and to discover training and professional development opportunities to build their skills and maximize potential. Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity CISA, Eric Goldstein, reflected on the importance of a ready workforce.

“The cybersecurity workforce is on the front lines of our nation’s security,” said Goldstein. “Our objective is to provide the right tools so this critical workforce knows where to find the available training that can help them be well prepared and skilled. This comprehensive guide will help individuals identify a job track and pinpoint areas for growth.”

It’s clear it will take many partnering together to fill the gap, including area businesses.

Involvement and support from the Gulf Coast business community is critical in meeting this need and many organizations have stepped up to help. Navy Federal Credit Union has been a partner with the ITEN Wired initiative since 2013. Tony Gallardy, CIO at Navy Federal said they are committed to a ready workforce.

“For over 35 years I’ve watched our IT, digital and cybersecurity spaces evolve extensively,” said Gallardy. “The integration of each has been critical for Navy Federal and in the financial industry as a whole. Making sure our workforce is skilled and equipped with the knowledge to continue to innovate within the security space so we can protect the credit union and our membership from cyber-threats is our number one priority. I’m so glad we can come together as a community to prioritize this and grow together.”

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