Governor Ron Desantis speaks on workforce training at Hardee college

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke in Hardee County on Thursday at South Florida State College. At the college, the governor announced $2.3 million would be awarded to six state institutions from the Job Growth Grant Fund.

DeSantis said he was at the college campus in Hardee County to make a big announcement and said he was focused on protecting jobs and that the state of Florida was working hard to keep people in business. He also repeated a common criticism over the cost of higher education.

“Our state university system is ranked number one in the nation for all public university five years in a row,” DeSantis said. “I don’t let them raise tuition because I’m sick of how expensive college can be, so it’s actually affordable in the state of Florida. And we’re proud of doing that and we’re also proud, I mean we’re going to keep Bright Futures for people and we’re proud of that. But, if you look at our economy now, a four year university degree is not always the best way to be successful.”

He said many go “deep into debt” and joked about how students are getting degrees in “zombie studies” and “wonder why the seas don’t part for them.” DeSantis said more than getting a university diploma, skills are the priority for a degree, explaining that difference for the state’s focus on expanding career and technical education.

“It’s not necessarily just having a sheet of paper,” DeSantis said. “It’s really about what skills or knowledge are you being equipped with.” He said since he became governor, the state was working on helping residents enter high demand fields with no debt, and make a “good living very quickly” through fields such as electrical or engineering.

The governor said $135,000 would be awarded to Florida Gateway College and $150,000 to the College of Florida Keys for nursing programs. Separately, $930,000 was awarded to the State College of Florida, $550,000 to Manatee Technical College, $415,000 to South Florida State College and $100,000 to North Florida Technical College for commercial driver training programs.

“When the department of education, when COVID hit, we said we want to utilize that and any funds we may have to really do things along these lines,” DeSantis said. “We did $35 million in 2020 to implement rapid credentials, and these institutions here that are getting some of this money stepped up and helped people get rapid credentials ready, and high wage opportunities. So with the new funding we’re doing now, with the new funding we did in 2020, the programs are expected to help train 1,200 students by May of this year and 2,000 in August of that year.”

The governor said the funding would help increase those numbers “dramatically” and that the programs would have a high return on investment for the cost. He said the state was seeing the return in real time as people fill the positions that are open.

Since 2019, the governor said the workforce initiative was launched and has led to a 50% increase in high-quality post-secondary career and technical education enrollment. The Florida College System has added 11 career and technical education baccalaureate degree programs in fields such as health care and cybersecurity, among others, according to DeSantis.

DeSantis closed out the event by reiterating the excitement the state had for workforce education and infrastructure investments, to have high impact in local communities across the state, then briefly gave a bit of personal news to the gathered public.

Hardee residents also met with Desantis at Gloria’s Restaurant in Bowling Green.

Photos courtesy WAUC

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