By Ian Leigh
Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times.
Although Governor Ron DeSantis has asked for Florida’s education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, to help him secure $36 million from the legislature for workforce programs, with an emphasis on computer science classes, several Tampa Bay area college presidents say there are market opportunities in the arts and creative fields as well.
Governor DeSantis, at a recent Tampa press conference, asked for more dollar investment in vocational and technical training, with a special emphasis on computer knowledge. To stress that initiative, he signed an executive order asking for an audit by the Department of Education to learn more about its career and technical education programs. He said he wants to prepare more people for practical market entry.
The goal is to raise Florida from number 24 nationally in vocational training to number 1 by 2030. As part of this effort, he is asking the legislature to put $10 million into programs that will permit teachers to earn computer science certificates. He hopes the end result will be more qualified faculty in this field.
Governor DeSantis also asked for another $26 million for more workforce programs within the state college system and more investment to seed workforce apprenticeships. Several Tampa Bay area college presidents say that there are also alternative opportunities in the arts and other fields — in everything from mental health counseling to the creative arts.
Larry Thompson, president of Ringling College, told our Invest: Tampa Bay team that there are myriad creative paths for students. “Historically, education has focused on the left side of the brain (the logical, analytical and sequential thinking), but with the dawn of AI, the development of the right side of the brain (the creative, holistic and intuitive thinking) will become even more critical. That’s where the future lies; it’s going to become fuel for all industries, the oil of the future.”
Ringling College, based in Sarasota, offers classes in the business of art and design and other creative disciplines.
Jeff Day, president of Argosy University, noted there are new opportunities in the market. “Due to what’s happening in our society right now, clinical mental health counseling is a really booming occupational field,” he told Invest:. “There’s such a growing need for mental health counsellors and clinical psychologists, and even our school psychology program, that we’ve expanded our programs and are seeing more students.”
Governor DeSantis stressed the need for practical education during his press conference. “Florida has many students unprepared for college and workforce success,” he said, “limiting both their career and opportunities, as well as employers’ ability to grow their business.”
Jeffrey Senese, president of St. Leo University, emphasized his belief in internships and practical readiness for work upon entry into the workforce. “Internships are crucial, as are the practical projects in the classroom. We try to ensure both so our students are career-ready upon graduating,” he told Invest:.
A feature for the school is that its faculty members have field experience in addition to academic knowledge. Senese cited the real-world seniority of instructors in his school’s criminal justice department. “The same goes for the business, arts and science, social work and education departments — they’re practitioners; that’s an important part of our model.”
It’s clear that Florida’s leaders recognize the importance of training the state’s future workforce and preparing them to be productive members of a constantly changing economy. Whether it’s technical and computer science training or honing creative and communication skills, Tampa Bay’s educational institutions are rising to the challenge.