To keep up with a technologically advancing world, Florida Southern College has added three new majors to its ever-growing computer sciences program.

During a curriculum revision, the Florida Southern College identified three areas that are deemed critical skills needed by today’s graduating students: cybersecurity, machine learning and artificial intelligence, as well as web and cloud computing.

“Florida Southern is dedicated to expanding our computer science programs, especially in high-demand areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and cybersecurity,” said University President Anne Kerr. “The Carole and Marcus Weinstein Computer Sciences Center will help us prepare students for their careers while meeting our region’s growing high-tech workforce needs.”

In addition to adding the majors, the Lakeland college is also constructing the Computer Sciences Center near the Becker Business School and the France Admissions Center.

Jeff Baker of Mesick, Cohen, Wilson Baker Architects in New York is the lead architect on the building; he designed the France building, which opened in 2017, and has overseen restoration work for Frank Lloyd Wright buildings on campus. Rodda Construction is the construction manager for the project.

When the 20,000-square-foot building opens in 2021, it will have state-of-the-art classrooms, a cyber range, a workshop space/garage, an esports arena, an internationally themed café, faculty offices and study spaces.

Polk County’s Talent Pipeline

“These concentrations will give students opportunities to experience depth and rigor in a specific field as part of their undergraduate computer science program of study,” said Dr. Christian Roberson, assistant professor of computer science and department chair.

“As the tech sector in the greater Lakeland area has continued to grow, we have worked with several local partner organizations to facilitate internship placement and job opportunities for our skilled computer science students,” Roberson said. “In addition, we support the local economy by providing well trained young professionals to help attract new businesses and companies to the area.”

These innovative majors are important to further diversify the economy in Polk County. The plans for the Central Florida Innovation District and its accompanying research park would pull from Polk’s existing talent pipeline and attract graduates of programs like these at Florida Southern.

“We are thrilled that Florida Southern College continues to graduate students in areas like computer sciences and nursing that we deem critical to the continued economic development of Polk County,” said Sean Malott, President and CEO of the Central Florida Economic Development Council. “Students should have no problem finding jobs here as more and more companies expand or are attracted here to take advantage of our impressive higher education institutions, low taxes and quality of life.”

New Opportunities

The Washington Post recently reported computer science graduates as having the highest potential earnings in their first jobs, with a median base salary of $70,000. And, in a 2018 report called Project Sunrise, the Florida Council of 100 estimated that 80,000 STEM jobs go unfilled in Florida each year.

In addition to the growing tech, logistics and aerospace industries in Polk County, the strategic location along the Interstate 4 corridor between Tampa and Orlando, and proximity to the Space Coast, opens doors to a variety of industries and opportunities.

“Computer Science and Information Technology jobs are continuing to experience incredible growth across the world as new technologies and paradigms are developed,” Roberson said. “Students will have the opportunity to pursue top positions.”

Close to home, graduates are serving internships and finding jobs at the likes of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Fidelity and many more.

“As software engineers, programmer analysts, and web developers with a wide range of organizations, our graduates are entering the industry with a theoretical background and real-world experience,” Robertson said.

Students not in the computer science fields will also gain the necessary skills through these new programs.

“In addition to teaching industry-specific skills, our computer science programs focus on creativity, problem solving and collaboration, skills that perfectly complement the college’s historic offerings,” Kerr said. “I think that all students will need advanced technology skills for any profession they choose, so all of these programs will be beneficial to all of our students.”

For additional information about this topic or how to become a partner with the Central Florida Development Council, please contact Lindsay Zimmerman at lindsay@cfdc.org.