The National Center for Simulation (NCS) held its annual scholarship presentation at Research Park to honor graduating high school students on 1 May.
 
 The event celebrated students who have demonstrated an aptitude and inclination toward pursuing a career in modeling and simulation, Orlando’s second-largest industry after theme parks and hospitality, which brings approximately $7 billion to the Central Florida region annually.
 
 The students received scholarship awards made possible through NCS’ workforce development program in partnership with the National Defense Industrial Association and the Central Florida chapter of Women in Defense. Officials advertised the scholarship opportunities earlier in the academic year with specific instructions on how to apply. The high schoolers submitted applications online, which a scholarship committee evaluated and scored based on a rubric that considered students’ grades, community service, and modeling and simulation experience, among other factors.
 
 NCS’ workforce development efforts focus on continuously discovering and preparing the next generation of modeling, simulation, and training (MS&T) professionals. The NCS program seeks to get fifth graders and middle schoolers interested in MS&T (and other STEM-related fields) with early, positive experiences like those offered through Gains in the Education of Math and Science (GEMS) summer camps and DoD STARBASE Central Florida. Those experiences can later continue through high school programs, college internships and beyond.
 
 Lindsay Spalding, NCS’ workforce development director, said that workforce development for the MS&T industry is a full pipeline, and that the event’s focus was on the early professional. She added that high schoolers can also receive a certification in modeling and simulation through NCS’ track, which can be helpful in obtaining internships and other opportunities later in their educational careers.  
 
 Spalding explained that her organization helps build professionals by “educating educators” on what the MS&T industry is like, bringing them to I/ITSEC where training sessions are conducted every year, and those teachers and their students are invited to solve hard problems, in addition to other efforts.
 
 “There’s a lot of training in workforce development,” Spalding said. “The goal is to introduce this community to the educators because they don’t get the chance to come out [to see us].” 
 
 An important aspect of NCS and its role in workforce development involves its support for training Department of Defense personnel. Maintaining and improving these training efforts directly impacts national defense, especially in an era of great-powers competition and potential near-peer conflict.
 
 “We’ve got to have the workforce that supports the things we’re building and doing for warfighters,” said Lee Lacy, the scholarship committee’s chair.
 
 Spaulding said the modeling and simulation pipeline emphasizes the importance of meeting the warfighter’s training needs to succeed and survive when deployed to a hostile environment, and it addresses the anxiety commonly associated with armed conflict.
 
 “We’ve been growing a population of people who understand and are accepting of the warfighter and that role, and then engaging and inspiring them to help improve the warfighter by helping to build those training tools,” Spalding said. “We have a lot of students who think, ‘Oh, they’re building that thing to train in, and I would love to help build that.’ That support mindset improves our national security because they can be the ones who end up building those training systems that warfighters are using to protect our nation.”

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