MELBOURNE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is asking the State Legislature to approve the use of $75 million in federal funds to support what he’s dubbed the “Get There Faster” initiative, aimed at boosting residents’ access to technical education programs.
During a news conference at Eau Gallie High School in Melbourne on Monday, DeSantis said the initiative would be broken down into two programs: the Get There Faster Technical Prep and Work-Based Learning Initiative for current high school students and the Get There Faster Post-Secondary Workforce Initiative for Florida adults with or without a high-school degree.
The governor is asking $50 million be dedicated to part one of the initiative, which focuses on students still in the K-12 school system, and $25 million for the portion aimed at helping adults.
The governor said the initiatives will support learners and workforce training programs, technical schools and work-based learning opportunities with Florida businesses by providing wraparound services and covering costs not accounted for by traditional financial aid. The programs will place a particular emphasis on work-based learners and career training programs that allow students and adults to “earn while they learn,” he said.
“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,” the governor said.
DeSantis said a four-year university education is one way someone can advance themselves and invest in their future but that it’s not the only way and for many, it’s not the best way. He said often times, students are falling into debt they struggle to get out of trying to pay for a degree they may not use.
“And so, we’re creating more and more viable pathways that provide the provide students with the skills that they can then turn into strong livings and high wages,” he said.
The governor said he’s recommending the $50 million, which comes from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, be dedicated to covering the costs for high school students to participate in workforce college credit, career dual enrollment or work-based learning opportunities.
“We think that this is something that can really aid in a lot of different costs: transportation program fees, books, materials, any of these things that could potentially stand in the way of a low-income student for participating in some of these apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, work-based learning opportunities. We want to make sure that every student that is qualified to be in a career dual enrollment program has the opportunity to do so is not burdened by ancillary costs that can make or break their ability to learn technical skills that will help them achieve a future of self-sufficiency,” DeSantis said.
According to the governor, eligible students must be dually enrolled at a Florida College System institution or district or charter technical career center and must be further enrolled in a career and technical education or workforce program that leads to a credential of value to employers in the workforce.
DeSantis said he wants $25 million, funded by the governor’s Emergency Education Response Fund, provided for adult learners and students enrolled in workforce programs at a Florida College System institution or district technical center.
“This will help remove the financial barriers adult students are faced with when seeking in demand and high-value career and technical education or training,” he said.
Both funds were supported through some of the recent federal relief bills, according to the governor, though not the most recent one, which was passed earlier this month.
During the announcement regarding the initiative, the governor hinted he felt confident the proposal would receive the Legislature’s blessing.
“So we’re rolling this out as an initiative that we’re asking the Legislature to provide authorization for now, theoretically, and I know (Education Commissioner) Richard (Corcoran) and I discussed, I mean, we could probably spend this under emergency authority, but because the Legislature is in, we think we want to be able to work with them,” he said.
The governor said the initiative takes the Sunshine State one step closer to reaching his goal of being the No. 1 state in the nation for workforce education by 2030.