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Tampa Entrepreneurs Create Innovative Solution To Noise Disturbance

Three entrepreneurs in Tampa have created the solution for noise disturbance for both commercial businesses and residents with a product that goes beyond absorbing noise to keep the noise from entering in the first place.

Founded in 2013, Residential Acoustics’ signature product is the AcoustiCurtain, a soundproof curtain designed to make life quieter for urban businesses and residents.

The inspiration for the product came from partner Walker Peek’s personal experience. Living near the Selmon Expressway, Peek experienced a lot of noise outside his residence from airplanes, construction, traffic and other things. Peek discussed his frustrations with business partners Dylan McCandless and Zach Levine, and the team constructed a curtain to help reduce the noise. The product worked so well, they decided to mass produce. A company in Odessa now manages the production process, and the team works from home on the marketing and sales, when not involved with their fulltime jobs.

The curtain is made out of a mass loaded vinyl material in between two pieces of cloth, giving it sound blocking characteristics. Supported by grommets at the top, it is also visually appealing and available in a variety of patterns and colors. The curtains are customized to exact dimensions to provide the best coverage for the space needed. They can be retracted to let in light, sound and air if desired. They are currently being sold in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.

The company just started utilizing the mentoring services provided by the Tampa Bay Technology Incubator for assistance with marketing, sales and legal advice.

They plan to remain in the Tampa Bay region in the long term. "There is a big need for new companies where you can have employees that are local," says McCandless. "Lots of manufacturing happens here. We’re excited to bring more to the area."

The company plans to expand the product line and partner with large retail outlets in the near future.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Dylan McCandless, Residential Acoustics

New Partnership Makes Digital Signage More Accessible, User-Friendly

Wondersign and IAdea recently announced a partnership that will enhance the flexibility and user-friendliness of the digital signage world.

Wondersign is a cloud-based content delivery system for digital signage. Customers purchase the signage hardware for restaurants, stores or other areas and use Wondersign’s product to manage the content design and development. The drag and drop interface works with any web browser and doesn’t require advanced technical knowledge. Based out of Switzerland, Wondersign runs its North American operations from its Tampa office.

Taiwan-based IAdea provides media players and sign boards to power large-scale, commercial grade digital signage projects. The partnership offers customers a way to manage their devices out of the box, simplifying their deployment and operation.

"The fact that [IAdea] has identified a cloud-based software-as-a-service like Wondersign as a strategic partner for the future shows where the industry is going,” says Casper Fopp, director of marketing and public relations for Wondersign.

The partnership is particularly useful for small- to medium-sized businesses that may be new to the world of digital signage and overwhelmed with the prospect of managing multiple signage locations. The cloud-based nature of the software is attractive to businesses that have different locations and are not able to have a physical presence everywhere their signage is placed.

"The partnership helps a lot of people get into the digital signage world with easier access," says Alvin Kuo, senior sales manager for IAdea.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Casper Fopp, Wondersign; Alvin Luo, IAdea

Brickmania Brings STEM, LEGO Together In Tampa Bay

A family-friendly event with a focus on building blocks and building bonds is coming to Tampa Bay on March 22, 2014. Brickmania, a STEM education program founded in South Florida, will take place at 2 p.m. on the Carrollwood Day School campus.

Open to all families with students in kindergarten -- eighth grades, Brickmania will feature STEM-centric exhibits, interactive activities, and a LEGO contest.

Brickmania Founder Jennifer Weinman describes the event as "an opportunity for Bay Area students to try out their communication skills and build bonds within our community.''

Through interactive "Brick and Mortar'' STEM-centered activities, kids will be expected to mingle with other students in a fun-filled environment.

"Each year, students can go through an anxious transition time as they enter new situations. Much of this stress and anxiety is caused by unknown social concerns of 'Will I know anyone, and will I fit in?' '' Weinman explains.

She notes that "building bonds'' is an important theme.

"Most STEM careers require team collaboration, where good communication skills are a must. We are giving students a chance to practice this skill in a fun, safe environment,'' says Weinman. "They will build their confidence.''

The event aims to help students learn more about STEM education and careers as they get to know each other. Professors and other professionals will be available to talk with kids about their work in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Event exhibitors already lined up include Microsoft, Syndaver, USF College of Engineering, and USF College of Marine Science. USF professor Dr. Yu Sun and his students from the USF Robotic Perception Action Lab will be exhibiting their "On-Body'' Learning System, a projection game for students to learn about basic anatomy.

"The projection images will move and turn with the student's moving body, creating fun spatial 3D learning,'' says Weinman.

The display highlights anatomy and healthcare careers, "but also promotes engineering ideas that are used in game and medical equipment development,'' she explains.

The day's flagship event will be the LEGO contest.

"Students have amazing imaginations, and the Brickmania LEGO contest is all about imagination,'' says Weinman.

Contestants will be asked to create their entries at home using LEGO blocks and bring them in the day of the event for judging. LEGO creations should be a student’s original design. 

Contest divisions and themes in 2014 include: "How Does Your Garden Grow'' for grades K-2; "Florida'' for grades 3-5; and “The Ultimate Theme Park” for grades 6-8.

To reserve a space in the LEGO contest, forms and fees are due by Tuesday, March 18th, 2014. Forms may be submitted online, mailed, or dropped off in person at Carrollwood Day School. Questions? Email Event Chair Jennifer Weinman.

Brickmania will donate a portion of its proceeds to USF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, a local comprehensive outreach and support program.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Jennifer Weinman, Brickmania

Webber Kerr Associates, Junior Achievement Partner To Guide Next Gen Business Leaders

A new partnership utilizes the knowledge and experience of a Tampa-based business to guide and educate local youth.

Webber Kerr Associates, an executive search and consulting firm based in Hyde Park, is partnering with Junior Achievement to provide financial support, mentoring and guidance.

Webber Kerr wanted to select a charitable organization to donate a percentage of search fees for every contract signed during 2014.

"Discussions kept coming back to children, education and preparing the next generation of leadership," says Emily Wagner, managing director for Webber Kerr.

The employees were particularly impressed with Junior Achievement’s mission, which is helping youth achieve skills in entrepreneurship, economics and financial literacy through real-world experience with business leaders.

In addition to the financial support, the company wanted to have a physical connection with the charity. They are allowing their employees paid volunteer time to participate in speaking engagements, mentoring programs as well as the Pam & Les Muma JA BIZTOWN, a mini city that contains up to 23 fictitious businesses to allow youth to experience economics in a real life setting. Students receive "jobs" such as accountant, retail sales representative and banker, and there’s even a city mayor.

A native resident of Dunedin and University of South Florida graduate, Wagner participated in BIZTOWN herself while in fifth grade. "I remember exactly what job I had and what a good experience it was." The experience left such a good impression, she wanted her company to play a major role in giving back to today’s youth in the same way.

"We have to be focused on children, their education and growing their careers, giving whatever we can, whether it be monetarily, guidance or mentorship" says Wagner, speaking about the business community in Tampa Bay. "The economic health of the entire area depends on it."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Emily Wagner, Webber Kerr Associates

USF, Hillsborough County Recognized For Excellence In Teacher Education

The Association of Teacher Educators, a national organization that focuses on high quality teacher preparation, recently recognized education partners in Tampa Bay for their role in preparing teachers to educate the next generation.

The 2014 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education award was given to the innovative partnership between the University of South Florida (USF) Department of Childhood Education and Literacy Studies and Hillsborough County Public Schools.

The award criteria included: collaborative development, research-based principles, data-based decision making and demonstrative positive impact on students.

"Today, high quality teacher education requires intense collaboration with school-based partners," says Diane Yendol-Hoppey, Ph.D., chair of childhood education/literacy studies at the USF College of Education.

The strong partnership is the pinnacle of USF’s success, allowing teachers coming out of the program to receive many hands-on hours in the field and make instructional decisions specific to individual student needs.

The program is unique in that students work directly in classrooms throughout their studies rather than a traditional internship during the last semester. Rather than designing coursework based on theoretical ideas, the program links research-based practice with student learning. These initiatives help provide conclusive data about the positive impact on students.

Another unique aspect is the Partnership Resource Teachers -- Hillsborough County public school teachers on leave who work at USF. These shared positions, funded jointly by USF and the school district, help create strong curriculum links between the university and the field. Every USF faculty member also spends at least one day per week in the field, understanding the challenges the teachers face.

USF’s elementary education degree has 450 students within its two distinct programs: the Urban Teacher Residency Partnership Program and the Elementary Cohort Program. 80 percent of graduates teach in Hillsborough County after graduation, making it an important pipeline for talent.  

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Diane Yendol-Hoppey, USF

Georgia Natural Gas Provider Enters Florida Market

Businesses owners in the Tampa Bay region have a new option for powering their establishments: Gas South is going to start offering services here and other cities in Florida.

Atlanta-based natural gas provider Gas South announced in January that it is expanding, and Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are a key target market. The growing company will also serve Miami, Orlando, Fort Myers and Jacksonville.

Gas South was established in Georgia in 2006, and its customer base has grown to 265,000, says Florida Market Manager Nicholas Glover of Tampa. The company decided to move southward after looking at the business climate in Florida and assessing that the state has the same type of industries that use the service in Georgia.

Glover says Florida's deregulation of the natural gas industry in 2000 also opened the way for Gas South to enter the state.

Gas South provides natural gas to small, medium and large businesses, government agencies and compressed natural gas stations. Establishments can use natural gas to generate electricity. Clients include places like dry cleaners and restaurants. Gas South is only offering its natural gas services to commercial customers and government clients.

While it faces competition, Glover points to a couple assets that he believes could make Gas South a preferred choice for clients.

"We are synonymous with whatever market we're in … because of how involved we are with the community,'' he says, pointing to support for nonprofits and other charitable organizations. The company participates in community service through its Gas South Cares program.

He also touts the company's customer service as one of its biggest selling factors.

Writer: Alex Tiegen
Source: Nicholas Glover, Gas South

PLS Logistics Services Expands To Tampa, 120 New Jobs

Leading third-party logistics solutions and freight brokerage services firm PLS Logistics Services is expanding significantly in 2014, opening a new office in Tampa and creating 120 new sales jobs with a base salary of $35,000 over the next three years.

"PLS is excited to announce the opening of our new Tampa sales office. We will be able to better serve our growing client base in the greater Tampa area and also capitalize on the population of young, talented professionals this region provides," says PLS VP Bob Janeda.

Founded in 1991, the Pennsylvania-based company was ranked among Transport Topics’ Top 25 Freight Brokerage firms. PLS uses proprietary web-based transportation management system PLS PRO to cater to the mobility needs of its customers.

With significant capital investments being planned in the Tampa Bay market, the new sales jobs will largely focus on further growing the company’s client base in the greater Tampa Bay region as well as nurturing new and existing customers to ensure logistics success.

"PLS feels that Tampa Bay has a strong workforce and is a growing community with critical mass. We appreciate the business-friendly regulatory and government environment of Florida and Tampa," says Janeda.

After experiencing substantial success in core Midwestern markets serving industrial companies, PLS made moves to enlarge its territory to serve shippers of all shapes, sizes and industries and expand services beyond its Midwestern reach.

The company recently opened new offices in Pittsburgh, Houston and Jacksonville.

"Our successful expansion into Jacksonville was a key driver in the desire to expand in Tampa," says Janeda.

Atop the company’s must-have list during the site-selection process was proximity to area universities as well as downtown areas that provide entertainment and cultural options for their employees.

The company’s determination and commitment to their customers drive a rich corporate culture of innovation, collaboration, growth and reward.

"To be successful, it takes a hungry, aggressive person who is willing to put in the time to learn and grow. Because of the nature of the job, it is imperative that our management team create a fun, yet competitive environment," says Janeda.

To find out about career opportunities, visit PLS online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Bob Janeda, PLS Logistics Services

University Of Tampa Receives National Recognition For Excellence In Entrepreneurship

The University of Tampa (UT) Entrepreneurship Center adds to its list of accolades the Outstanding Emerging Entrepreneurship Program Award from the U.S. Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

The award is given annually to recognize programs that have been in existence for three years or less or have undergone a major revision during the same time period. Programs are judged on: innovation, quality, potential viability, comprehensiveness, depth of support, sustainability and impact. The top four schools were invited to present before a set of judges at a national program in Texas in January.

UT’s program, which boasts 250 undergraduate and graduate students, has undergone a transformation recently from a focus on family businesses to a more comprehensive emphasis on the entrepreneurial mindset, appealing even to students who aren’t interested in starting their own business.

"We focus on building intellectual capital," says Rebeca White, director of the Entrepreneurship Center and professor of entrepreneurship at UT. "We certainly want to have businesses come out of the program, but the real focus is on building entrepreneurs."

White feels that strong support from the university is key to UT’s winning the award, noting that the university wants to be known for entrepreneurship. "We have a lot of great momentum," says White. "We were able to prove our ability to do what we say we’re going to do."

One example of this support is the creation of an entire floor of dedicated space for the center in a new building set to be completed by Spring 2015. The space will bring together students, educators and experienced executives to develop entrepreneurial concepts and launch new ideas. UT also plans to take the concept across campus and provide programming for students outside of the business college, including nursing, art or theater majors who want to be more engaged in an entrepreneurial mindset.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Rebecca White, The University of Tampa Entrepreneurship Center

BLUE Ocean Film Festival Casts Wide Net For Talent, Technology

The international BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit, which arrives in the Tampa Bay region for the first time in November 2014, has announced an open call for film submissions. Entries will be accepted through April 28. The early bird deadline is Feb. 28.
 
The week-long festival and summit will be a magnet for filmmakers from around the globe, including emerging talent and amateurs. 
 
Based on previous responses, BLUE Ocean organizers expect to receive 350-370 original submissions. Debbie Kinder, the festival's co-founder and CEO, anticipates an ecosystem of independent entries based on the innovative technologies now widely available.
 
"Cameras like the GoPro are a technology disrupter; they are really changing the way filmmaking's done,'' says Kinder. "I think what we're seeing is a trend of more up-and-coming filmmakers and students that have the ability to get up and tell good stories as technology becomes more affordable.''

These emerging technologies tend to attract young filmmakers. In the past, "we had student films from filmmakers as young as 5th grade,'' says Kinder. The festival will host a separate category for Tampa Bay K-12 students. All students will receive special recognition for participating.
 
The platform of the festival, and the available technologies, make it possible to promote conservation through storytelling. The forward-thinking event will use films, such as Blackfish, to bring up complicated questions, but the dialogue will be focused on finding solutions and encouraging progress.

"We discuss issues, but we also want to highlight success stories. There are great success stories and those need to be heard more,'' says Kinder.
 
In addition to the submissions and summit discussions, the festival has become a hotbed for high-tech unveilings. At the last festival, Google launched its Oceans Street View and the 360-degree underwater camera that would start their work capturing images of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Google has confirmed another product launch for the upcoming festival.

"A lot of people come together at BLUE. There's still a lot of great technology that comes out to the festival in general; whether it's about filmmaking or just communications as a whole,'' says Kinder.
 
The BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit will take place Nov. 3rd through 9th. BLUE will be headquartered in St. Petersburg at the downtown Hilton, with events taking place at venues in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Sarasota. For more information on submitting your film, visit the festival's 2014 film competiion page.

Writer: Ash Withers
Source: Debbie Kinder, BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit

Tampa Clothier Scores In Gasparilla Distance Classic

It's been one big year for Black & Denim Apparel Company.

In 11 short months, the boutique clothier has grown from Kickstarter-funded roots into the official sponsor of all branded merchandise and apparel for the 2014 Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic.

For the past three years, footwear and apparel giant Nike has been the official race sponsor, "so we have big shoes to fill,'' says Black & Denim founder Roberto Torres. "This gives us an audience of over 30,000 people. This project is huge!''

After a local runner and Black & Denim fan suggested the company approach the Gasparilla Distance Classic Association with designs, Torres explains, "It just took off from there.''

Black & Denim is set to provide long- and short-sleeve T-shirts for competitors in the annual race, held Feb. 22-23 in downtown Tampa. The company hopes to expand apparel and merchandise to include hats, thermals, "hoods'' (hooded sweatshirts), and more in 2015.

Fans will be able to pre-purchase branded merchandise on the Black & Denim website the week prior to the race as well as on race weekend. In the company's first year as a race sponsor, they will offer "six kick-ass designs that are edgy and fun -- family-friendly, as well,'' says Torres.

Since opening a boutique storefront in October 2013, the company has rapidly outgrown the space, moving to 1907 East 7th Ave. in Ybor City. Torres also has short-term plans to open a store in Channelside and a long-term goal to bring a store to Tampa International Airport by 2018. The company employs five people in Tampa and will hire two more for the Channelside location.

Every semester, notes Torres, "we have four interns from either the University of Tampa, University of South Florida, or the International Academy of Design and Technology.''

Black & Denim will showcase wares in a booth at the 8 On Your Side Health and Fitness Expo at the Tampa Convention Center during race weekend. The 2014 Expo will feature 99,000 square feet of vendors, says Torres.

"We are very excited about the opportunity, to say the least,'' says Torres. "This race attracts runners from all over the country.''

By: Justine Benstead
Source: Roberto Torres, Black & Denim

Hillsborough Arts Council Launches Power2Give Donor Portal

A new online crowdfunding platform being launched this week is designed to solicit new donors and donations to support arts and cultural organizations in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Power2Give is similar to other crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, but the focus is on helping local arts and culture organizations fund projects that might not be funded through traditional campaigns.

The concept began with the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, NC. It has expanded to include 21 metropolitan areas who have raised $4.5 million through 1,880 projects in just two years. The Tampa Bay region will be the 22nd community to join Power2Give.

Projects are listed on the site for 90 days. If the fundraising goal is met before then, the project is removed from the site. If the goal is not met, the money is still given to the nonprofit, another differentiator from the all-or-nothing model used by many other crowdfunding platforms. The organizations also provide donors with non-cash benefits.

In the spirit of transparency, organizations are encouraged to break projects down to explain exactly what they cover. This transparency also aims to create more patrons for the arts by providing a closer glimpse into what goes on within the organizations. This idea has proven successful, with an estimated 44 percent of donors across the 21 metropolitan areas being first time arts patrons.

“You can feel confident that the project is real and the money is going somewhere,” says Terri Simons, director of program services for the Arts Council of Hillsborough County, the sponsoring organization for the Tampa Bay arm of Power2Give.

Power2give Tampa Bay
launches February 12 with over $100,000 in projects to fund, including: helping students with disabilities attend summer animation camp through VSA Florida, creative journaling projects for families of domestic violence through the Dunedin Fine Arts Center, a mosaic on the outside of the building at the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin and underwriting costs for some of the performers at the St. Petersburg Jazz Festival.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Terri Simons, Arts Council of Hillsborough County

Straz Center Brings Arts To Underserved Populations

The Patel Conservatory at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa provides programming to underserved populations throughout Tampa Bay through on-site programming and community outreach.

The Center currently has more than 30 partnerships with organizations and schools throughout the Tampa Bay region, such as Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, University Area Community Development Corporation, Big Brothers & Sisters of Tampa Bay, MacDonald Training Center, and Moffitt Healthy Kids Program.

The longest standing partnership is with Metropolitan Ministries Partnership School. Now in its fifth year, the Center provides ballet classes on a weekly basis using a skills-based curriculum. They also have an after school program that includes a theater workshop.

Partnerships allow the Center to send faculty, staff and visiting artists on site to schools and other organizations to teach them about creativity and innovation through exposure to the music, dance and other performing arts.  

The impact the programs have on youth cannot be understated, providing a safe place for children, some of whom are homeless and most of whom would not be exposed to the arts otherwise.

"They get a chance to fully immerse themselves into the magic of the transformational power of the performing arts," says Wendy Leigh, VP of Education for the Straz Center and the Patel Conservatory. "In doing so, they’re making friends and feeling confident. It enlarges their persona and their outlook on life."

Programs are funded by donations.

Applications for the 2014-15 Community Partnerships program will be available March 3 and accepted through April 4.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Wendy Leigh, Straz Center and the Patel Conservatory

B-Sides Event In Tampa Focuses On Cybersecurity

In the midst of the Gasparilla celebrations, Tampa will be infiltrated by a different kind of pirate on February 15.

B-Sides Tampa is an event for cyber-hackers of every type -- professionals, students, tinkerers and people who just want to learn more about the world of information security. The free event at South University in Tampa includes workshops, demonstrations, competitions and lots of networking.

The event is based on the national DEF CON conference that takes place in Las Vegas each year. As the conference grew, smaller events were created that appealed to local communities who wanted more audience participation and group interaction. With the name depicting the “b side,” or flip side of a record, B-Sides events take place in cities across the world including San Francisco, Boston and London, and now for the first time in Tampa.

B-Sides Tampa organizers want to bring people together for networking, training and collaboration, and to see how many people in the area are interested in topic. The results have them pleasantly surprised, with 350 registered thus far.

Presentation topics include Introduction to Forensics, Understanding Your Data, and more technical subjects like SIEM and Anti-SIEM Techniques. A "Capture the Flag" section will feature a set of security challenges that allow people to hack machines and solve problems, with prizes for the winners. There will also be a careers portion with companies in the local area that are hiring.

"We want to help put Tampa on the map with regards to technology in general," says Mick Weiss, operations engineer at Carvoyant and one of the organizers of B-Sides Tampa. "There’s so much technology in Tampa and in Florida in general, but nobody knows about it."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Mick Weiss, Carvoyant and B-Sides Tampa

Burger 21 Expands, Adds 50+ Jobs in Tampa

Award-winning fast-casual dining chain Burger 21 is expanding to include on-going franchise development, which will create up to 50 new jobs per restaurant. The company is also adding operations as well as research and development positions to support the company’s continued growth.

There's no doubt that Americans love burgers -- especially a better, livelier experience that serves a fresh burger with style. With fast-casual dining and the better burger concept rolling in $75 billion per year within the overall burger industry, fast-casual dining represents less than 3 percent of that number.

Burger 21 serves a variety of high-quality, fresh made-to-order gourmet burgers, fries, salads and shakes to people of all ages in a modern environment.

"It's a very small sliver of the burger business, but it’s growing at a rate of double digits. Clearly, there's enormous potential there. We are capitalizing on the need and desire for consumers to have higher quality burger options. At Burger 21, we focus on variety," says Dan Stone, VP of franchise development.

Founded by the owners of The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc., Burger 21 opened its first location in Westchase in November 2010 and sold its first franchise in early 2012. The company has since sold more than 20 franchises across nine states and plans to sell 20 new franchises this year.

The Burger 21 brand experienced significant growth in 2013, opening five new franchise restaurants and generating $12.4 million in systemwide revenue. The company’s strategic growth goal also includes the addition of 10 new franchise units this year, which is expected to generate more than $24.5 million in total systemwide revenue.

"The more we sell, it has a trickling effect of us being able to provide increased support to our restaurants. The more we open, the more support we will need at our home office. Much of what will happen this year is a result of activity and sales that happened last year," says Stone.

Since 2010, Burger 21 has added more than 150 new jobs to the Tampa Bay region. The company is targeting expansion in Pinellas County by 2015.

"We definitely have a strong interest in bringing the brand to Pinellas. We are franchising all other areas," says Stone.

The company is hosting a February 13 webinar on franchise development. To register for the live webinar, visit the company’s franchise website. For career development opportunities, visit the company online.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Source: Dan Stone, Burger 21

USF, (ISC)2 Partner To Bridge Cybersecurity Workforce Gap

The University of South Florida is taking cybersecurity education head on, partnering with the world's largest not-for-profit information security professional organization (ISC)2 to launch certification and master's degree programs designed to create job preparation for thousands of students and professionals throughout Florida.

The collaboration between the University of South Florida and (ISC)2 (pronounced ISC squared) is chiefly designed to help bridge the workforce gap between the large demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals and the amount of skilled professionals who are prepared for the market.

Last year, the Florida Legislature expressed interest in the state becoming a leader in cybersecurity and proposed that USF take the lead in the effort for our region.

USF has since spearheaded the development, putting together a full academic program that offers more core resources and certifications in cybercrime, cyber intelligence, cyber operations and more.

"The strategic objectives were driven by a lack of resources in the cybersecurity department. There is a real need for cybersecurity professionals. We want to create a robust program that will help create jobs and resources," says Sri Sridharan, managing director at USF’s Center for Cybersecurity.

A November 2013 report found that 49,000 cybersecurity jobs were available throughout the country, yet only 2,000 individuals were professionally qualified to perform the necessary functions that the jobs entail.

The partnership also allows USF to offer CISSP preparation courses and administer the CISSP exam under the (ISC)2 umbrella. (ISC)2 is considered the "gold-standard" of cybersecurity industry certifications.

There is a significant range of professional opportunities within the cybersecurity field, including psychology, forensics, law, compliance, IT, photography, policy and more.

In addition to the focused academic programs, USF’s Center for Cybersecurity will also conduct applied research and outreach as well as collaboration with the healthcare industry and other vertical markets in order to further share the message about the cybersecurity industry.

Online transactions and elaborate tech grid systems are a significantly increasing element of our progressive society, technological innovations, and local regional development. Bridging this workforce gap will prepare and pair thousands of professionals with high-paying, high-demand jobs necessary to help protect the future of our growing digital world.

"Cybersecurity is one of the most pressing issues facing our world today. It's what keeps bank accounts secure, health records private, transportation grids protected and identities from being stolen. We have a huge role to play in ensuring that today's students have the skills to tackle the cyber challenges of tomorrow, so that we can all continue to live, work, bank, travel and communicate safely," says USF Provost Ralph Wilcox.

USF's cybersecurity certification program is targeted to launch later this spring. The master's degree program is scheduled to launch in the fall 2014.

"Anyone who has at least four years of experience, a degree in cybersecurity, and a CISSP certification -- they are looking at a six-figure salary to start off with. So these are high-paying jobs, great jobs, great demand," says Sriharan.

Writer: Kaye Brown
Sources: Sri Sriharan and Ralph Wilcox, The University of South Florida
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