Securing Florida's Future: The Power of Career and Technical Education

Securing Florida's Future: The Power of Career and Technical Education

March 28, 2024

By Sarah Marmion

As Florida continues its trajectory to becoming a top 10 global economy, we need to increase the conversation about educational choices that align with the true talent needs of our state’s industries. It’s important to highlight flexible, real-world learning opportunities that prepare our students for the jobs of the future, opportunities like Career and Technical Education (CTE). CTE, is a specialized career path that helps students gain skills for high-wage, high-growth careers in lucrative fields such as automotive, manufacturing, healthcare, STEM, and information technology.

I regularly hear about the need for precisely this kind of education as a member of the advisory board for the Future of Work Florida, a partner initiative created by the Florida Department of Education, Florida Chamber Foundation and CareerSource Florida. The Future of Work Florida Initiative was created to unite the business community with education and workforce partners to raise awareness and preparedness for high-demand careers of the future.

At our board meetings, the common refrain coming from business leaders across all industries is a clamor for talent. We listen keenly when an electrical wiring company talks about its apprenticeship offering, or when a member of the medical community talks about a new Integrated Education and Training program.

Florida has a lot of good news to share about CTE and it has a dynamic, long-term plan to fuel the future. Our top-ranked state and technical colleges offer numerous high-wage, stable career pathways in high-demand sectors that don’t require a four-year degree — fields like artificial intelligence, engineering technology, healthcare, IT, robotics and more. It’s possible to enter the workforce while building industry credentials that stack into a degree, avoiding college debt while earning wages. And, sometimes the skills that students acquire during their pursuit of various technical certifications function as a ladder into other areas of specialization or possibly additional post-secondary education, including a four year or specialized degree.

What we need now are more CTE champions. Florida needs its middle and high school students and their parents to understand and believe that success in the workforce is not solely determined by the length of time spent in a traditional academic setting.

Parents are uniquely influential in their children’s career aspirations. More than half of students (55%) say they rely on family members and friends for career advice. According to research, younger parents and parents with bachelor’s degrees or higher show a stronger interest in Career and Technical Education — possibly because they experienced their own challenges with student loan debt and are more amenable to the idea of a high-quality non-college career path for their children.

While parents are exploring CTE, it makes sense for businesses to invest time and money training the talent of the future. In addition to sponsoring STEM clubs and teams, Florida Power & Light Company is creating a “STEM Stars” interactive, digital career exposure program that provides deeper understanding and interest in energy careers for students in grades 6-12. We’re also supporting opportunities for students to build and repair things— drones, robotics, aquatic bots, to name a few. Our FPLAir program uses drones to help monitor the energy grid to help us provide customers with reliable service. The Drones in School program, which we support throughout our service territory, may inspire those students to lead and challenge how companies do business.

When we embrace Career and Technical Education, we recognize both the evolving needs and lucrative opportunities of our economy. Parents, Florida needs your child’s talents in skilled trades. Empower your child to earn a credential that can increase their employability, wages, job stability and career growth potential. When it comes to elevating your child’s education, there is no wrong door.

Sarah Marmion is Sr. Manager of Education & Outreach Centers for Florida Power & Light Company.

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