All posts by Donna Smith

CTE Month Spotlight: Danielle Damico

CTE Month Spotlight. Student pictured is Danielle Damico.

This profile is part of a series celebrating Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month at St. Petersburg College. Be sure to check out the full story to read more about the experiences of SPC students. To explore all of our degrees and credentials, visit spcollege.edu/degrees.

Danielle Damico, 39, was a single mom of three, making ends meet by bartending and serving in Downtown St. Pete. The restaurant was right across the street from St. Petersburg College’s Downtown Center, and she walked by it often. Damico says she often felt like the black sheep of her family because she hadn’t gone to college.

“I faced some personal struggles in high school, and then life happened,” she said.

Children came; years passed. Damico took some classes in 2018, but juggling work and parenting made it seem impossible. When COVID hit and she lost her job, she decided it was time, and she enrolled at St. Petersburg College in Fall 2020. By the end of her second semester, she will have earned her Google IT Support Professional certificate, as well as a Comp TIA A+ certification, both of which were paid for with scholarships.

“These certifications will help me get a job – as early as this summer,” she said.

February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, which celebrates the importance of CTE programs, not only to Damico, but also to so many others like her all across the nation.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment has skyrocketed in America. In Florida, where the economy relies heavily on the tourism industry, unemployment is widespread. As of December 2020, there were more than 614,000 people without jobs. Programs like those at SPC offer short-term training that can take people who are unemployed or underemployed and quickly train them for high-paying careers in fields where there is a real need for trained workers, such as computer programming, cybersecurity, information technology, health sciences, advanced manufacturing and more.

In order to make earning new credentials more accessible, SPC partnered with the State of Florida. To make short-term programs easier to find, the college partnered with Get There Florida, an initiative that raises awareness of short-term training programs. The college also aimed to make short-term programs more affordable. A $2.2 million grant from the Florida Department of Education’s Rapid Credentialing Economic Recovery and Prosperity Initiative allowed SPC to offer the Rapid Credentialing Scholarship to employees or at risk of losing their jobs due to COVID-19.

“Our region has felt the unprecedented impact COVID-19 has had on the global workforce,” SPC’s Dean of Workforce Development Michael Ramsey said. “SPC’s programs help impacted community members to quickly get the skills they need to get back to work and back on their feet.”

SPC has more than 30 Associate in Science degrees and over 60 certificates, some that can be completed in as little as 10 weeks. In 2019-20, the college awarded more than 740 workforce certifications and is already showing an upward trend. Director of Workforce Education Jason Boys said SPC’s enrollment in Workforce Education Industry Certification programs is growing, as is the college’s selection of programs.

“We’ve had over 1100 students enrolled so far this academic year, and are adding more every day,” Boys said. “We also have several exciting new programs like Electrical Line Worker, Solar Power Associate, Patient Care Technician, Google IT Associate and Entrepreneurship Essentials.”

Damico plans to graduate in Spring 2022, then keep working towards a Bachelor in Applied Science in Technology Development and Management at SPC. Her advice for anyone considering going back? Just do it.

“Don’t even think about it – do it,” she said. “Until you do, you’ll be stuck in that loop of should haves.”

SPC Information Security Officer Offers Election Advice

A true democracy hinges on the public’s ability to vote and then have their votes counted accurately. After the hacking issues during the 2016 election, and with the 2020 election cycle in full swing, concerns are mounting, St. Petersburg College’s Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Security Officer David Creamer recently published an article in Education Technology Insights that addresses ways that higher education institutions can avoid being targets for election hackers.

In the article, titled Election Cyber Security – Considerations for Educational Institutions, Creamer offers insight on how educational institutions can prevent security breaches that interrupt the democratic process during voting season.

“We indeed have a significant role to play addressing cyber security vulnerabilities and protecting against threats to our democratic process,” he wrote.

Noting that higher education institutions often serve as polling precincts, Creamer suggests ways that they can ensure that no tampering is done to voting equipment. He also notes scams via voting campaigns, which can trick students into making themselves ineligible to vote.

“Imitation registration campaigns, both on campus and online,” he writes, “seek to exclude parts or all of the electorate.”

Creamer said this can happen in more than one way.

“Tampering can introduce misinformation to voters, or in the case of voting machines, alter vote reporting,” he said.

Creamer encourages educational institutions to stay aware, inform their faculty, staff and students, and protect voting equipment, if they are a polling site. He also advises staff and faculty to pay special attention to phishing via email and maintaining situational awareness of people on campuses.

“We need to be vigilant because hackers consider educational institutions to be soft and rich targets that provide high bandwidth access to the internet and an easy place to compromise accounts,” Creamer said.

Read Creamer’s article on the Educational Technology Insights website. Also, check out SPC’s degrees and certificates in cyber security.

CCIT Professor Lends Talents to Refugee Camp

refugee camp

St. Petersburg College’s John Just, College of Computer and Information Technology adjunct professor, recently volunteered with the Boat Refugee Foundation, an organization that provides services to people living in the Moria refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece.

The Lesvos camp was formed in 2016 after more than 46,000 refugees had reached the Greek Island, and, as they sought asylum, the Greek government contained the people in camps located at five different islands. Moria is the largest of the camps.

Just, who teaches Intro to Computers at SPC and is the Senior Vice President of Learning Innovation at KnowBe4, traveled to Greece to teach English, help set up a library and teach computer skills during his two-week stay at the camp. He said the conditions there were primitive.Community of Care logo

“It’s very overcrowded and more people are coming in every day,” Just said. “There are families with children and older people, as well. People are living in small tents in between the ‘containers’ because they are full.”

In addition to the English and computer classes, The Boat Refugee Foundation offers many other services to the refugees, including a medical clinic, a school, a stress relief class and mental health workshops.

“There are experts from various fields there helping out,” Just said. They are some of the best people I have ever had the opportunity to work with.”

The refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and many other war-torn countries, and though they bring their own expertise, the need for education and enrichment is vital. Just noted that he met many extraordinary people at the camp, like Ousmane, an engineering student who escaped war and devastation in North Africa.

“His native language was French,” Just recalled. “He volunteered in our library and was always studying: English, Greek, and anything he could get his hands on. He hopes to go back to engineering school once he gets out of the camp. Any country would be better for having someone like him in it.”

refugee campTo find out more about volunteering at a refugee camp or making a donation, visit the Boat Refugee Foundation website. Just said he would recommend the experience to any and all.

“It is such a fulfilling experience because you are working with great people from all over the world,” Just said. “They need our help because these people have lost everything,” Just said. “And they are really appreciative of our efforts. Several people wrote me notes of “thank you” and too many people said thank you to mention. It’s really rewarding, and there is a lot to do to help with the programs besides teaching class, so it’s great experience. I highly recommend it to SPC students and faculty.”

IT certification training available through new grant

IT certification grant

St. Petersburg College’s Workforce Institute is an approved educational provider for the new Tampa Bay TechHire program, which provides certification grants for free accelerated training and paid work experience opportunities to over 1,000 youth and young adults in high-growth industries. SPC will provide the free training in all IT related certifications, including CompTIA A+, Networking, IT Security, Java Programming and Web Development.

Along with any program-specific requirements for application, applicants for the TechHire grant must:
• Be between the ages of 17-29
• Possess a high school diploma or GED
• Be unemployed or underemployed

IT certification grants

Training will be offered on multiple campuses, or with sufficient enrollments, may be provided at local schools.The grant covers tuition, as well as lab and certification fees, for the eligible students.

Fred Tucker, Program Coordinator for Information and Innovative Technologies at St. Petersburg College, said the program is growing rapidly.

“March will be our best month yet,” Tucker said, “with new students enrolling in IT certification training. I expect the enrollment numbers to grow during the next several months.”

Tucker also noted the demand for workers with IT certifications.

“Our digital world is expanding so quickly that it’s creating IT jobs and openings faster than the right people can be found to fill them,” he said. “Besides having low unemployment levels, IT jobs pay well with salaries that are significantly higher than the national average. The outlook is good, too: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the availability of IT jobs is projected to grow by 17 percent through 2022.”

An IT certification puts applicants ahead of the crowd.

“Having a certification in your hand boosts your resume and is an increasingly compelling credential when you’re applying for a job,” Tucker said.

For more information regarding applying to the program or bringing the program to your organization, contact Fred Tucker at 727-791-2409, or tucker.fred@spcollege.edu.

For information on all other training available, please visit SPC’s Workforce Institute, or contact us at (727) 341-4445 or at workforce@spcollege.edu.

Information Technology student named Outstanding Online Student

William Wantling

When St. Petersburg College co-hosts the annual International Technology Council (ITC) eLearning Conference Feb. 19-22 at the Tradewinds Resort, ITC and SPC will present the 2017 Outstanding Online Student Award to College of Computer and Information Technology student William Wantling.

information technology student
William Wantling

Wantling began his online journey to a degree in Fall 2015, but before that, his life had spiraled to a low point. He’d worked in the IT field for 18 years, but emerging technologies had outpaced his credentials, so he found himself unemployable in IT.

“For several years I struggled trying to get back into any type of IT job, but found myself stuck in more customer service roles,” Wantling said.

This, coupled with other personal issues, increased his personal struggle.

“I was severely depressed and found myself homeless for nearly a year,” Wantling said. “I have always been professionally employed, but found after a while I had nothing to look forward to.”

In April of 2015, Wantling landed a full-time position, which allowed him to get his own apartment near SPC’s Downtown Campus. He visited the Admissions Department there, which set him on course to change his life.

“With the help of the admissions department, I was able to get Pell Grants and financial aid and began my first online course in the Fall Semester,” he said.

Wantling enrolled in the Computer Support Certificate program, achieved a lifelong dream of being CompTIA A+ certified, then earned a Microsoft Technology Associate Certificate for Windows Server. He credits his instructors for their support, especially Downtown IT Academic Chair Laura Malave.

“Ms. Malave met with me and encouraged me to continue my journey and get further certifications,” he said. “I spoke to her every few weeks, giving her status updates, and she encouraged me to continue my education by switching to the A.S. Degree in Cybersecurity. I just got my CompTIA Network + certification, and if it wasn’t for the encouragement of Ms. Malave, it wouldn’t have been something I thought I could accomplish.”

Malave said Wantling is a dedicated and enthusiastic student, fully deserving of his award, which brings not only recognition, but includes a $500 stipend.

“William works very diligently to excel in his coursework and also to complete industry certifications,” she said. “He has demonstrated outstanding scholarship through online coursework, while working and studying for industry certifications. He is also active in campus life. I look forward to his continued academic and career success.”

Wantling is now 48 years old, working 35 hours a week at his job and taking a full load of online classes. He said SPC’s CCIT online courses are challenging but rewarding.

“I now have the skills needed to resume a career in Information Technology, with many opportunities. I am indebted to the instructors, staff, Ms. Malave and Dean Setterlind for the support and assistance in getting my education. I am once again becoming a productive member of society.”