The State of Florida has awarded Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) a Workforce Development Capitalization Incentive Grant. 

This announcement, made by Governor Ron DeSantis last week, will give NWFSC money it needs to expand its commitment to innovation in the state’s next generation of workers. 

The grant will enable NWFSC to enhance its Computer Science and Cybersecurity curriculum by incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) skills and coursework. 

Set to roll out in the Summer of 2024, the program aims to equip students with cutting-edge knowledge and skills to meet the demands of the technology sector in Florida and beyond. 

Expressing gratitude for the grant, Dr. Devin Stephenson, President of NWFSC, emphasized the college’s pivotal role in advancing Florida’s semiconductor industry. “We are thrilled and deeply grateful for this substantial investment in Florida’s future,” Stephenson said, “Thanks to Governor DeSantis and the Workforce Development Capitalization Incentive Grant Program, the College can play a crucial role in advancing Florida’s semiconductor industry.”

What Students Will Learn

Starting in Summer Semester 2024, the revamped curriculum will introduce two foundational courses: AI Fundamentals and AI Ethics. 

These courses will set the stage for the Fall 2024 semester, which will feature an additional trio of classes: AI Machine Learning Foundations, AI Natural Language Processing, and AI Applications. 

The expanded program aims to support student completion of Career Technical Education (CTE) Certifications, providing them with a competitive advantage in the job market across various in-demand occupations.

Dr. Henry Mack, Vice President for Academic Affairs, highlighted the potential transformative impact of the program on the region, stating, “This is nothing short of transformative for our region. The program will include the development of two AI laboratories in Niceville and Fort Walton Beach campuses to maximize accessibility.”

NWFSC’s AI courses and certificates hope to cater to both beginners seeking fundamental knowledge and professionals looking to enhance their career portfolios. 

 

Industry-Recognized Certificates

Successful completion of AI Fundamentals, AI Ethics, and one of the three advanced courses will earn students a College Credit Certificate in Artificial Intelligence. 

A unique feature of the program is the opportunity for students to earn industry-recognized Microsoft Azure AI certifications. Dr. Jeff McGill, Dean of Workforce Education at NWFSC, noted, “Our AI program provides students with the opportunity to earn industry-recognized Microsoft Azure AI certifications, ranging from Fundamentals to Engineering Associate, Data Scientist Associate, Data Engineering Associate, and Designing and Implementing a Microsoft AI Solution.”

The Workforce Development Capitalization Incentive Grant Program, which supports the creation or expansion of career and technical education workforce development programs, provides grants to school districts and Florida College System institutions. The funds cover some or all the costs associated with these programs, including industry certifications on the CAPE Industry Certification Funding List.

For further information on NWFSC’s cutting-edge AI courses and certifications, you can email Jackie Bytell, Chair and Executive Director of Cybersecurity, at bytellj@nwfsc.edu.

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