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AZ Cyber Initiative

Grant Award

AZ Cyber Initiative Receives Grant from Google and JFF to Develop a Diverse Regional Digital Workforce Planning Strategy

AZ Cyber Initiative is one of three national organizations chosen to receive a six-month, $50,000 planning grant administered by JFF – a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems – and sponsored by Google.org.

Working with its community partners, AZ Cyber will use the grant funds to support a planning process to:

  • Engage business and industry in assessing digital job and skill demand as well as opportunities for work-based learning experiences and employment along the I-19 corridor
  • Work with education partners to identify flexible, competency-based IT career pathway programs that offer multiple on- and off-ramps through partnerships with regional training providers
  • Develop targeted recruitment strategies that aim to increase the number of Black, indigenous, people of color, women, LGBTQIA, or other populations underrepresented within the IT industry
  • Identify comprehensive wraparound supports to promote participant persistence and success from enrollment to graduation, job placement, and retention

According to Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insight, IT occupations are projected to grow 11 percent nationwide through 2029 and add a total of 4.4 million jobs by 2030. At the same time, many other occupations will face elimination or significant labor shifts. Estimates from Brookings put job disruption due to automation and technology advances at approximately 30% nationwide, with some areas like the I-19 corridor experiencing 48% automation potential. Identifying clear career pathways and upskilling for digital jobs can create economic opportunities for regions and workers facing job disruption. 

These efforts are already underway along the I-19 corridor. Currently, Santa Cruz County through C-CREO Gear Up and a USDA Rural Development grant is developing a youth internship program for students to learn e-commerce skills and offer digital platform support for independent businesses in Santa Cruz County. Additionally, Sunnyside Unified School District and Pima Community College are partners of an Education Innovation Research grant that the Center for the Future of Arizona received to address persistence in CS/Cyber career pathways. The award AZ Cyber Initiative has received from Google and JFF will provide the opportunity to link, leverage, and align current workforce programs in the region. 

Manny Felix, Founder & CEO of AZ Cyber is optimistic for about what this means for the future of cybersecurity and IT jobs in Southern Arizona, more specifically along the I-19 corridor. “I am both honored and humbled that the AZ Cyber Initiative was chosen by JFF and Google.org as one of the three organizations to receive this planning grant. This accomplishment could not have been possible without the help and support from our community partners. I look forward to working alongside the other distinguished community leaders and organizations where we will work to advance the digital and cyber workforce needs in our region, primarily benefiting student populations in rural areas and underrepresented in the cyber industry”.

AZ Cyber’s mission is to help Arizona students pursue careers in cybersecurity by 1) working with schools to develop and implement cyber-related professional development; 2) offering programs to help students interested in cybersecurity pursue various career paths; and 3) building coalitions of community organizations with similar goals. Their key initiatives include hands-on summer classes, mentorships with industry professionals, a scholarship program for those in financial need, and workforce readiness and development opportunities where students can obtain certifications that can help them land part- or full-time jobs or internships.

The grant period runs through mid-summer of 2022.