DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 16, 2022) – While the nation grapples with past student debt and ways to tackle the unemployment issues still plaguing industries, Florida is on the offense when it comes to solving the problem by tapping into and training the workforce of tomorrow.
Delivering what will be the foundation of the aerospace and manufacturing industries’ growth for generations to come, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and members of the Florida Legislature stood shoulder-to-shoulder, building on the momentum behind Florida’s Space Coast.
“I set a goal to make Florida the best state in the nation for workforce education by 2030 — and we are doing that by making investments that expand opportunity and meet industry needs,” said Governor Ron DeSantis.
“Currently there are over 91,000 manufacturing and aerospace technology-related jobs on the space coast and this $30 million investment will build more opportunities for Floridians.”
The Education Component
Working with leaders in education, the announcement is an investment in the talent pipeline Rodney Cruise, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is excited to see happening.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to have the governor on campus today. Everything that he’s doing for aviation and aerospace and of course what we’re doing for the talent pipeline, it’s absolutely thrilling,” said Cruise.
Volusia Manufacturers Association Director of Education and President-Emeritus Jayne Fifer has been developing the FAME program to give students an advantage in the manufacturing industry.
On Friday Daytona State College was presented with funds to “scale the college’s machining and welding technology programs, with intentional efforts to build the workforce pipeline by increasing dual enrollment and strengthening K12-to-postsecondary pathways”.
Fifer knows it will help provide students with unprecedented career opportunities in industries like aerospace and aviation, which are growing and changing at the speed of light.
“It is critical to develop our pipeline for employees which VMA does constantly because there’s such a huge skilled-labor shortage. One of the things that VMA does is get into the schools to work with STEM and manufacturing in order to be able to get these young people ready because it’s going to come and it’s going to come fast, and we need a prepared workforce,” said Fifer.
“Our biggest challenge is telling the story about how spectacular the careers in manufacturing are, and aerospace will be a big part of it,” she said.
“We’re having a problem recruiting people to participate in the program which you would think would be a no-brainer. It is a 2-year program. You come out of it with an engineering technician’s degree, 1,600 hours of hands on experience, debt free, a job and you’re working hands on in manufacturing so you can grow and develop. (You’re) so valuable that at the end of two years, everybody will want to help you.”
“We are the place for aerospace and what I think this initiative will do will build awareness that there’s great careers there, build the talent pipeline, and it will allow our local population to have good jobs. This is the key to greater things in our community.”
Eastern Florida State College picked up more than six million dollars “to transition and improve its aviation maintenance programs, incorporate composite training and avionics, and expand the college’s existing aerospace technology programs,” according to the Governor’s office.
The funding will benefit the Titusville campus said Dr. Randy Fletcher, Vice President of Academic & Students Affairs and Chief Learning Officer.
“This impact is going to really transform our northern-most campus in Titusville into a center for excellence institution and learning. We’re going to fulfill the governor’s call for more job ready, more skills-based, high-wage, high-demand types of jobs in those career and technical ed programs like welding, like manufacturing, especially in aerospace technology and aviation in our maintenance program that we have,” he said.
“Being able to locate that at our northern-most campus is going to be very important for the residents and students of Brevard County. We’re going to replicate our Aerospace Technology Program that we have at our Cocoa campus at our Titusville campus where the Aerospace Center for Excellence will be and these funds will help provide that new space for us.”
Planting the Seeds of Opportunity
Little workforce training takes place without the support of CareerSource Florida. Developing extensive workforce outreach initiatives and flexible programming has enabled the state’s workforce arm to stay nimble as the needs of employers change.
On hand to represent CareerSource Flagler/Volusia, President & CEO Robin King says the ability to offer workforce training programs is enhanced by the ability to expand the opportunities for students from an early age with programs like YouScience, added to the Volusia County School District in 2021.
“There are three CareerSource regions that are here today that are really going to be taking a focus on aerospace, aviation, and advanced manufacturing, which is just phenomenal for our area,” said King. “To have his legacy industry invested in by our Governor and Legislature from education, economic development, workforce development, it’s a true collaboration and it’s exciting.”
“For Daytona State College, Embry-Riddle, Flagler Technical College, K-12 Volusia and Flagler schools, we’re really all excited about it,” she said.
“A piece of the funding is going to come specifically to us. We don’t provide training, we pay for training, so we’ll be doing training in a variety of occupations and also really working with our K-12 around a large awareness campaign. We worked with the Daytona Chamber with their You Science assessment and you saw the difference between what they’re interested in and what they’re good at. So how can we help them understand what those occupations are and opportunities here? I know a lot of students that attend Embry-Riddle would love to stay here, so if we build that economic engine we’ll stop exporting our best talent all the time.”
In Flagler County, Florida House Speaker-designate Paul Renner has seen firsthand the benefits to education through the Flagler Schools’ Flagship Programs.
“I think, as the governor pointed out, that space is a really, really exciting area for our country, really for the world, our state in particular. In this part of the state in particular, we’re seeing huge expansion on the private sector side and what that means, as the governor stated, is a significant number of great, high paying jobs. What the governor’s said today is, hey the value of space is not just located in a small launch pad at Cape Canaveral, it’s certainly there and it will always be the epicenter but it also extends here to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, to places to the south and north of where we’re standing that are going to see the benefits of that in terms of jobs, but also in terms of education,” said Renner.
“I think what we do in Flagler County with the Flagship Program which is what I most familiar with is to really help kids find their passion early in life so they don’t go through a four year degree and a mountain of debt to realize, hey I don’t really want to be a psychology major. This is something that we’re undergoing here and today’s announcement that is purposeful, that is thoughtful, that is designed to make sure we are getting people on the path to take these fantastic jobs and pushing that down into the middle schools.”
CareerSource Brevard President Marci Murphy was equally enthusiastic about what the investment means for building a more robust supply chain workforce across the northeast and Central Florida regions for a multitude of industries including aerospace and cyber defense.
“We do employ one-third of the aerospace workers, in Brevard County, and there are a lot of supply chain companies coming in. We’re trying to build that up and build that supply chain all the way from the school system all the way through to the state colleges,” said Murphy.
“The governor is allowing us to put money into it so that we can make parents and students aware of all the opportunities from middle school all the way forward, so they know a career pathway before they even get out of high school.”
Launch Pad of the Future
Florida continues to position itself as a leader in the growing aerospace industry. Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez shared her optimism for the funding’s return on investment in communities across the state.
“Governor DeSantis continues to build on our success to develop a robust space economy across Florida,” said Nuñez. “Today’s announcement regarding our innovative funding partnership with our state colleges and workforce boards will position Florida as a leader in the aerospace industry. As Chair of Space Florida’s Board of Directors, I look forward to meeting the needs of future growth of space exploration and aviation technology in Florida.”
In places like Orange City and DeBary, Florida Representative Webster Barnaby is encouraged by the economic ripple effects being felt in places like west Volusia as a result of the continued investment in education and the industries of the future.
“We have outstanding students, outstanding graduates, and the jobs they will be getting will be the jobs of the future, and there are many more coming,” said Barnaby.
“It absolutely sets Florida apart as the industry standard as the number one place in the entire nation where people can be educated, and at the same time be employed in a field that allows them to live an incredible lifestyle based on the educational experience they receive here in Central Florida.”