Charting a Course for Florida to Become #1 in Workforce Education

Florida’s education leaders and Florida’s industry leaders came together to work on the implementation of HB7071 Workforce Development Bill of 2019 Florida’s Legislative Session. It is the first time, in the state, that this type of gathering has taken place, breaking down the silos between education and industry that has been created throughout the years. Industry and education now working together on the desired outcomes in creating a strong workforce for Florida upon graduation from high school. This legislation, passed in the 2019 Legislative Session, enables students to graduate from high school with industry certification, job apprenticeship, and college credit. Each student participating in Career Technical Education (CTE) is highly qualified in the chosen industry. They are, also, able to earn a higher wage immediately upon graduation, while pursuing their post-secondary education. This equips Florida’s schools to be in compliance with ESSA, Perkins V, and WIOA, while receiving the available funding available that goes with compliance.

The Florida Students First Coalition hosted by Florida Association of Student Educational Tours was held at the campus of SouthTech Academy in Boynton Beach, Florida last Thursday, August 22nd. The Coalition consists of education and industry stakeholders throughout the state.

The Florida Students First Task Force hosted Chancellor Jacob Oliva (State of Florida Division of Public Schools), and State Board of Education Chair, Andy Tuck at the SouthTech Academy campus at 1300 SW 30th in Boynton Beach on Thursday, August 22, 2019 from 9:00am – 11:00am.

Coalition members present were a select group of national, state and local educators and industry partners: Honorable Erica Whitfield, the Honorable Marcia Andrews and the Honorable Chuck Shaw of the Palm Beach County School Board,  the Honorable Nora Rupert of Broward County School Board, as well as State Senator Rene Garcia. Mr. Peter Dyga, President/CEO of Associated Building Contractors Florida East Coast Chapter. Other participants included Dr. Dale Winkler, Vice President of Southern Region Education Board, Bob Allen, CEO of IDEAS and former Disney Imagineer, and Normon Cushon, Vice President of Operations of CareerSource of Palm Beach County. Ms. Karin Hoffman, President of Florida Association of Student Educational Tours, served as the morning’s moderator.

One consensus taken from this task force was a need to change the messaging of CTE. Too many times it has been said, “Not every student is meant to go to college.” Or, “The trades offer a high earning, sometimes better than those with a college degree.” CTE is not an either/or decision for a student, either they can go to college or they should receive CTE education.”

CTE is, potentially, a both/and for the student. If both are needed for a particular career path. Both college and career technical education. Also, a student can choose a career pathway that doesn’t require college credit and, yet, still pursue college to master a field of study that may be totally unrelated, however, still a great interest to the student. For example, as an expert on infomatics, they can also obtain a degree in Medieval History, just because it is of great interest to them.

The reality is that post-secondary education is required for every person in order to be successful and prosperous. The challenge is how that definition of post-secondary education is understood. Even within the realm of academia, post-secondary has become synonymous to a college education. Post-secondary education can include college, among a vast host of certifications and apprenticeships. The fact is that post-secondary education is necessary throughout a person’s life in order to reach their fullest potential. And that can be accomplished through any combination of post-secondary options: career apprenticeships, certifications, and college education.

Florida’s students, Florida’s residents, and Florida’s future are the benefactors of the passage of HB7071. Not only will students have a myriad of choices of career pathways to pursue, Florida will have a strong, vibrant workforce, leaders of industry immediately upon graduation from high school, prepared and ready for the ever growing needs of Florida, both its residents and its industries.