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Cybersecurity firm donates $1 million for new USF program

Security model management company ReliaQuest is committing $1 million to the University of South Florida for cybersecurity labs at the school’s Muma College of Business.

The million-dollar gift also buys the private company naming rights to the labs.

The additional labs will address the local and national shortage of cybersecurity professionals. Only 45 percent of organizations and companies report that their security teams are fully staffed, according to a study from the national cybersecurity publication Dark Reading.

That same study shows that two thirds of those organizations lack a diversified mix of skills in cybersecurity to meet their individual needs.  

“In the face of what the industry refers to as a talent shortage, we believe that cybersecurity is actually suffering from a skills shortage,” said ReliaQuest CEO Brian Murphy.

“There are plenty of people eager to enter the cybersecurity field, but they need the skills to perform effectively in those positions. To overcome this challenge, ReliaQuest has chosen to invest both our expertise and financial resources to help solve one of the biggest challenges in the industry.”

The $1 million gift is payable over five years. It will help fund labs that will create secure operating centers where students can get real world experience navigating cybersecurity threats.

The ReliaQuest Cybersecurity Labs at USF are a partnership with the company’s own ReliaQuest University. The labs will feature four-week immersive programs to teach immersive cybersecurity skills. ReliaQuest will make its Cyber Simulator to all USF students regardless of their major as part of its partnership.

“Cybersecurity is one of the hottest job fields that exists today, with a huge demand for skilled professionals. Rather than see this as a challenge, we see it as an opportunity to find innovative solutions together with industry partners like ReliaQuest,” USF Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem said. 

“Ultimately, it’s our students who will benefit the most, gaining valuable skills and hands-on experiences that will help them land lucrative jobs after graduation and help build Florida’s economy.”  

USF faculty are partnering with security experts from ReliaQuest to develop curricula. That program will include standard classroom sessions along with the hands-on learning in the new labs.

USF has already chosen the first 30 students for the program through a competitive application process. That cohort starts Oct. 5. USF faculty expect hundreds of students to participate over the next five years.

ReliaQuest will interview students who successfully complete the program for potential positions with their company.

“The ReliaQuest Cybersecurity Labs will fill an important gap in the learning process for students interested in cybersecurity,” Murphy said. “By going through this program, students will have the foundation necessary to start learning cybersecurity so they can build careers they’re proud of.”

ReliaQuest has security operations centers in Tampa, Las Vegas and Dublin.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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