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Chamber summit: Apprenticeships could tackle workforce challenges

“The competitive advantage for Florida is growing talent here.”

The Florida Chamber of Commerce estimates the state will need another 1.5 million jobs by 2030, and apprenticeships could be a major cog in drawing the higher-tech, higher-skill jobs of the future.

Over the last two years, the state has invested more than $3.5 million into expanding apprenticeships programs. A bill passed by the Legislature this year will pump in another $10 million.

CareerSource Florida head Michelle Dennard said the word “apprenticeship” is used in many ways, but those state dollars will be used to boost the 200-plus recognized apprenticeship programs in the state while adding others to the quiver via the newly formed “Apprentice Florida.”

Dennard, Department of Economic Opportunity head Ken Lawson and Department of Education Innovation Chancellor Eric Hall dove into what that renewed focus on apprenticeships will look like during a panel at the Chamber’s Learners to Earners Workforce Summit.

“The Governor has laid out this expectation — this vision — for us to be number one in workforce education by 2030,” Hall said, citing a recent executive order signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. “In there is an expectation that the department complete an audit of the training programs in the state.”

That audit is aimed at finding out three things, Hall said: “what do we need to continue to expand, what things do we need to look for around the corner — what do we need to invest in — and what was maybe great 20 or 30 years ago but isn’t as in demand today.”

Once that information is in hand, the state can start identifying what apprenticeship programs are a good fit for Florida workers and businesses.

Things are already getting in gear on that front, Hill said. In years past, it could take nearly a year between application and approval for a new apprenticeship program. Now, the turnaround on some applications is measured in weeks.

A common misconception, the panel said, is that apprenticeships are an alternative to a traditional college education. That’s the case for some programs, but others are aimed at getting degree-holders the on-the-job training they need to advance in their field.

“Some of our apprenticeship programs may require certain credentials before you can get in the door,” Hill said.

Dennard added that some of the new programs would be better defined as “pre-apprenticeships.”

Lawson said pre-apprenticeships are useful in getting youth to start thinking about possible careers in ways that schools cannot.

“We can teach these kids certain skills, but we can’t teach them ambition,” he said.

As far as the benefit to business and industry, the panel said apprenticeships would allow them to build the workforce they need while keeping talent in the state.

“The competitive advantage for Florida is growing talent here,” Lawson said.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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