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Columbus State to lead national IT innovation center

$7.5 million grant will spur training for in-demand IT careers and fuel rapid job growth

Campus News | Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Through a $7.5 million federal grant, Columbus State Community College will launch a new center focused on creating and scaling up the high-demand training needed to fuel the country’s technology-enabled economic growth.

The National Information Technology Innovation Center (NITIC) will work with employers, community colleges across the country and others to prepare highly skilled technicians through credential programs that take two years or less. Columbus State is the lead institution in the NITIC, joined by partners from Collin College (McKinney, Texas in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex), Lone Star College (Houston, Texas), Maricopa Community Colleges (Phoenix, Arizona), and Sinclair College (Dayton, Ohio). 

Funded through the National Science Foundation as part of its Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program the NITIC will be the sole ATE national center focused on IT education. There is enormous demand for IT training, as technician jobs in STEM-enabled industries are expected to grow at double the pace of average U.S. job growth over the next 10 years. 

“We’re pleased to lead the way with the National Information Technology Innovation Center, which will play a crucial role in America’s tech economy,” said Columbus State President David Harrison. “Employer needs are changing rapidly. NITIC will provide best practices in employer partnerships, adopt new technologies as they emerge and partner with community colleges to develop a national network that will bring innovative programs to scale, leading to a highly skilled, inclusive, IT workforce.”

“Columbus State and its NITIC partner institutions bring deep experience advancing IT education outcomes within their respective regions, leveraging both NSF and other innovation funding,” said V. Celeste Carter, director of the NSF’s ATE program. “The launch of NITIC will support industry need for the skilled technical worker in the rapidly changing U.S. IT industry. NITIC will advance and support IT education by engaging the diverse, dynamic network of community colleges across the country.” 

Dr. David Harrison
NITIC will provide best practices in employer partnerships, adopt new technologies as they emerge and partner with community colleges to develop a national network that will bring innovative programs to scale, leading to a highly skilled, inclusive, IT workforce.

David Harrison Columbus State President

With the NITIC grant (NSF-ATE Award Number 2300188), Columbus State has received 16 NSF awards since 2013 – more than any other individual college in the country; Columbus State is also the anchor institution for the Columbus Workforce Hub, reflecting the college’s central role supporting growth and economic mobility in the region. The Columbus hub is one of five that the White House has designated. 

Columbus State assistant professor Larry McWherter, a national leader in IT education who was named educator of the year by the High Impact Technology Exchange Conference in 2022, will lead NITIC as principal investigator on the grant.  

“Each institution in this partnership brings deep experience and success to advance IT training outcomes in our home regions,” said McWherter. “Equally important in our world of constant challenge and change, we’re closely aligned with employer partners who help us meet the needs of our current and future workforce. I’m excited to combine our strength toward the common goals of provisioning and strengthening the nation’s IT workforce as a critical asset.” 

McWherter has led multiple NSF grants focused on developing the cybersecurity program at Columbus State, associated talent pipelines, and expanding IT career pathways through apprenticeships with industry. These efforts contributed to Columbus State’s designation as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency.

National Science Foundation logo

NSF-ATE Award Number 2300188

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that funds science and engineering advancement projects at U.S. colleges and universities.

The NITIC grant is awarded for five years, with a potential renewal for a second five-year term.

Key components of the NITIC include: 

  • The development of a national Business Industry Leadership Team to align future community college curriculum with employer demand, scaling up relationships at super-regional levels to national collaboration.
  • The creation of an IT Innovation Network to benchmark best practices and emerging ideas to advance IT education nationally, which will serve as an incubator for leading-edge curriculum.
  • The syndication of instructor training resources to address current and future IT competencies.
  • The promotion of recruitment best practices to increase the participation of women, underrepresented minorities and veterans in IT careers. 

“This is a big moment,” said Gloria Rogiers, Columbus State’s Information Systems Technology dean. “NSF is counting on us to deliver based on our track record of success. I’m confident the NITIC will be a game-changer in meeting the needs of our country’s economic future.” 

For more information on the launch of NITIC, contact Shane Kirby, Columbus State director for advancement partnerships.

Collin College logo

Lone Star College logo

Maricopa College System logo

Sinclair Community College logo


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