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FAMU Receives $1.5 Million to Establish Center for Public Computing and Workforce Development

Robert Seniors, vice president of Enterprise Information Technology, explains how Florida A&M University’s Center for Public Computing and Workforce Development will help build a trained workforce for Tallahassee and surrounding counties. (Back row from left to right: Dawn Holley-Dennis, chair of the Department of Workforce Education and Development; Dr. David White, assistant professor of Technology Education; Congressman Allen Boyd and FAMU President James H. Ammons)

October 6, 2010

TALLAHASSEE, Fla
. – Florida A&M University (FAMU) has received nearly  $1.5 million in a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to establish the FAMU Center for Public Computing and Workforce Development.

“We would like to thank Congressman Boyd for his support and the U.S. Department of Commerce for selecting FAMU for this initiative,” said FAMU President James H. Ammons. “We believe that this center will provide an economic boost to our community and provide training and computer access to a segment of our population who may otherwise not have access. Through this center, we will help build a trained workforce for Tallahassee and the region.”

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the three-county region of northern Florida targeted by Florida A&M University has poverty and unemployment rates well above the state and national averages, and many residents lack the 21st century skills necessary for industry certifications and job preparation.

“FAMU has a long and proven history of providing our students with the skills they need to be successful.  This new workforce center will allow them to turn their talents toward helping our local small businesses succeed in a challenging environment,” said Congressman Boyd.  “Small businesses play a pivotal role in getting our economy back on track, and I’m very pleased these federal funds will help ensure they have access to the support and services they need to be successful.”

Through the grant, the FAMU Enterprise Information Technology Division and the FAMU College of Education Department of Workforce Education and Development will establish a new Center for Public Computing and Workforce Development on the FAMU campus to serve the public of Tallahassee and surrounding Gadsden and Jefferson Counties. The center also plans to serve as a resource to other public computing centers in the region.

“We are extremely pleased that the concept we developed for the FAMU center was viewed favorably by the evaluators of the many grant applications that were submitted in the national competition for establishment of Public Computing Centers,” said Robert Seniors, principle investigator and vice president for FAMU Division of Enterprise Information Technology. “Goals established for these centers include an increase in access to broadband computing resources and training as a remedy to disproportionately high non-employment and under employment of disadvantaged and underserved Americans.”

FAMU’s Small Business Development Center plans to provide business development training and counseling services through videoconferencing technology, and offer workshops to small businesses with an emphasis on minorities, women, and veterans.

The project aims to develop and expand its instructional capacity through an aggressive “Train the Trainer” workshop program, which includes working with Florida’s Small Business Development Agency to create training content and identify and recruit trainers.

The FAMU Center for Public Computing and Workforce Development will also provide 65 new workstations and significantly upgraded support technology to help enable access for an additional 2,800 users each week and significantly expand the number of hours the public can access public computers. The new centers will also offer improved access speeds and shorter wait periods.

“I am very excited about the positive impact that will result from this award,” said Seniors.  “The access to our broadband driven knowledge and skill development program and 21st century technology resources, especially for the underserved, will change many lives in a significant way.”

Seniors said that through the center they plan to train 14,500 residents with approximately 87,000 hours of teacher-led training annually over the three years of the project.

The project’s training and broadband programs would include specific disciplines important to the northern part of the state, including public administration, education services, healthcare, social assistance, agriculture, forestry, and fishing and hunting.

Seniors is the principle investigator for the project.  The co-principle investigator is Dawn Holley-Dennis, associate professor and chair of the Department of Workforce Education and Development in the FAMU College of Education.
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