Florida Chamber Of Commerce Highlights Importance Of Apprenticeships

At a workforce summit hosted by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, educational and business leaders touted the benefits that apprenticeships can bring Sunshine State companies.

“The competitive advantage for Florida is growing talent here,” Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson said. 

Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Deputy Site Director Julie Combs spoke at the 2019 Learners to Earners Workforce Summit in Orlando. She said the company has embraced the apprenticeship model, which has increased employee retention rates. 

Employees are hired right out of high school, earning a paycheck at the same time they earn an associate degree. Lockheed Martin also offers the employees tuition reimbursement if they wish to continue their education. 

“We want people to come into our work environment and really only be limited by what they want to do,” she said.

According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, “Florida will add six million more residents and will need to create 2 million net new jobs” by 2030. The organization believes one of the best ways to fill those vacancies is to draw in high-skilled workers via work-based education opportunities. 

“Florida’s business community can demonstrate its commitment to long-term talent development by offering work-based learning experiences that range from site visits, job shadows, and internships, to full-fledged apprenticeships,” the Chamber of Commerce wrote in its Florida Jobs 2030 report. “Through collaboration with a local chamber of commerce or economic development organization, small businesses will also be able to offer such opportunities.”

One of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ goals when he stepped into office was to expand apprenticeships. On Monday, the governor made good on that promise, signing HB 7071 into law. 

“I think it’s important that our education system recognizes that there is more than one way to get advanced knowledge and skills beyond the traditional four-year brick and ivy university,” DeSantis said. 

DeSantis added that “concrete skills are in as much demand as ever” and that he wants to make sure that the education “system is nimble enough to recognize that and produce graduates that have a capacity to earn a good living when they get out of school.”

HB 7071 makes it so that students can earn up to four credits in career and technical education as well as work-based learning programs to partially fulfill their high-school diploma. If student’s go that route, they need a 2.0 grade point average to graduate.

“By investing in workforce education and apprenticeship programs, our students will have new opportunities and career paths,” DeSantis said. “In signing this bill, we are ensuring that Florida continues to build upon its economic momentum and future workforce by investing in the next generation.”

Rep. Tyler Sirois, a co-sponsor of HB 7071, echoed the governor’s sentiments.

“The more we can do to guide students to enter high-tech work opportunities the better,” he said.

Of the $90.98 million budget DeSantis signed on Friday, $10 million is going toward funding “high-quality workforce apprenticeships.” An additional grant program is also being created at the Florida Department of Education to help make new programs and expand existing ones.