Governor Ron DeSantis is asking the State Legislature to approve $75 million in federal stimulus dollars to be used to train students in vocational education.
Holding a press conference at Eau Gallie High School in Melbourne on Monday, DeSantis outlined the new “Get There Faster” initiative aimed at using funds from the federal government to bolster technical education programs, giving Floridians better access to the growing job market. The proposal, which would be run by the Florida Department of Education (FDE), would be integrated into the state’s budget if Florida legislators approve the allocation of the money during this year’s Legislative Session.
“My view is, getting kids in jobs, being able to actually serve as an apprentice, while you’re in school even, you end up being able to learn on the job, and potentially have a pathway to get a full-time job when you graduate from high school. So we think that these are going to be really good for a lot of Florida students, we think it provides more opportunities,” said DeSantis.
The new initiative will include two programs: the Get There Faster Technical Prep Work-Based Learning Initiative geared towards students in high school and the Get There Faster Post-Secondary Workforce Initiative available for adults with or without a high school diploma. DeSantis said he is proposing $50 million be dedicated to students still in the K-12 school system, and $25 million provided to help adults pursue “in-demand and high-value careers in technical education or work-based learning opportunities.”
The Governor said he valued the importance of traditional education, but noted that many students seeking a university degree have gone “deep into debt” studying subjects that don’t have “much application” in today’s job market.
“The fact is, in this last generation, you have a lot of people who’ve gone deep into debt to go to these traditional universities to study things that don’t have as much application in the real world,” DeSantis said. We also understand that those four-year brick and ivy universities, while one way to potentially advance yourself, are not the only way and for many students, certainly not the best way.”
DeSantis said he hopes the new program will shed new light on workforce training programs and give the people of Florida a viable career path to pursue.
“You’re not any better because you’re going to a university,” said DeSantis. “A lot of these folks who are doing it the career way and getting the vocational skills are doing financially well.”
As the Florida Legislature convenes for the fourth week of the 2021 Legislative Session, lawmakers continue to look for ways to help Floridians carve out a path to be financially stable. Several bills are on the docket to elevate apprenticeship programs in the state, including a bill (HB 175) by State Representative Jason Shoaf that would open the doors and give school kids the resources to connect them with job training programs.
Following today’s press conference, the Port St. Joe Republican called the initiative a worthwhile investment for Floridians looking to provide for their families amidst the pandemic.
“Dedicating $75 million in federal relief funds to vocational training is a smart investment that will pay off for years to come,” Shoaf told The Capitolist. “With skills training, folks cannot only get back to work, but they can build careers, provide for their families and get their piece of the American Dream.”
Other bills looking to create avenues from the classroom to the workplace include SB 508 by State Senator Jeff Brandes, and HB 1505 by State Representative Lauren Melo, HB 1507 by State Representative Clay Yarborough.