EFSC Receives $6.6M Grant for High-Tech Training
Talk about an early holiday gift.
Eastern Florida State College has received a $6.6 million grant from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to broaden its programs that are training the Space Coast’s high-tech workforce.
The college expects to receive the money over the next few months for use during 2023-2024.
The funds will benefit not only EFSC but all of Brevard County because it will help increase the 91,000-and-counting manufacturing and aerospace related jobs on the Space Coast.
“The greatest challenge confronting the commercial space industry is providing enough skilled talent to do all that is within our grasp,” said Dale Ketcham, vice president of government and external relations for Space Florida. “Training those already here is the first step, and this program will move that needle.”
The bulk of the grant — $4 million — will expand the college’s aviation maintenance program and aerospace technology program along with upgrading labs.
“Our aviation program is highly popular,” said EFSC’s Associate Vice President for Communications John Glisch. “We have a waiting list for students to get in. The demand from aviation companies for skilled workers is so strong that students have jobs lined up even before they graduate.”
About 80 students are currently enrolled in FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technology, Airframe and Powerplant program, located at the EFSC Aviation Center at Melbourne Orlando International Airport.
“The grants will allow us to expand the number of classes we offer, hire more instructors and potentially add new programs for avionics and drones,” added Glisch.
The United States faces a serious shortage of aircraft mechanics. The program trains students to become aviation maintenance technicians and prepares them for the FAA exams that lead to certification. According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, the median salary for those careers is more than $58,000 a year.
$1.6 million of the rest of the money has been designated a Pathways to Career Opportunities grant to support the Space Coast Machining Apprenticeship Program and the Space Coast Consortium Apprenticeship Program with more scholarships, instructors and enhanced labs in areas such as mechatronics, computerized machining and fiber composites.
These two programs represent a partnership between EFSC and industry partners such as Blue Origin, Vaya Space, OneWeb Satellites, Matrix Composites, Roswell Marine and Knight’s Armament. Under the program, students split their days between classes at the college and full-time apprenticeships at participating companies. To date, 26 students have launched their careers through the program since it began in 2019. Currently, 13 companies participate.
“It’s beneficial to apprentices, sponsor companies, EFSC and the entire community,” said Dr. Randall Fletcher, EFSC’s vice president of academic and student affairs and chief learning officer.
The grant’s remaining $1 million will be directed to the college’s award-winning cybersecurity program.
“The grant money will allow us to buy new computers and servers, upgrade our computer labs and hire more faculty to meet the surging demand for professionals in this field,” said Glisch
Earlier this year, EFSC was named a National Center of Academic Excellence in cyber defense by the United States government for its cybersecurity programs, which help to protect the nation’s critical information infrastructure.
“It really puts us on the educational map in this critical field,” Richey said.
The prestigious recognition from the National Security Agency applies to the college’s Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics, located on the Palm Bay campus.
The new designation makes EFSC students eligible for Defense Department cybersecurity scholarships, which cover the cost of tuition and books and provides a stipend.
“Students now know they are studying the practices deemed most important by two of the largest cybersecurity employers in the world, the National Security Agency and the Defense Department,” said Nicole Dyess, program manager for the Center for Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics.
“That will make them highly employable to companies along the Space Coast, throughout Central Florida and beyond.”
EFSC offers bachelor degrees, associate degrees and college certificates in cybersecurity. Some 138 students are currently enrolled in the program.
Grants Beyond EFSC
In addition to the $6.6 million grant to EFSC, Brevard was also on the receiving end of a $3 million grant for CareerSource Brevard — the county’s workforce development organization — to enhance workforce training and outreach programs.
Additional funds were also earmarked for Brevard Public Schools to offer a certified logistics associate course to educate students on supply chain, material handling, quality control and workplace communication and problem solving.
All the grants are part of $29.9 million designated to support workforce development in Brevard, Flagler, Volusia, Indian River and St. Lucie counties.
Gov. DeSantis noted that Florida is walking the walk in meeting workforce demands.
“I set a goal to make Florida the best state in the nation for workforce education by 2030, and we are doing that by making investments that expand opportunity and meet industry need,” he said.
For Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, news of the grant was welcome indeed.
“The EDC applauds this groundbreaking funding as Florida strives towards becoming the No. 1 state for workforce education,” Weatherman said. “As the Space Coast continues to grow into a national leader in the high tech and aerospace industries, this funding will continue to propel our workforce ready talent and foster an environment for growth and success.”
Eastern Florida State College
By the Numbers
$6.6M: Total grant to EFSC
$4M: Expand aviation maintenance and aerospace technology programs, upgrade labs
$1.4M: Pathways to Career Opportunities grant to support the Space Coast Machining Apprenticeship Program and the Space Coast Consortium Apprenticeship Program
$1M: Support cybersecurity program with new computers and servers, upgrade labs and hire more faculty