Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Opinion

Gaetz, Weatherford column: Act makes education a path to jobs

When the Career and Professional Education Act was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott last month, we stated this bipartisan, bicameral initiative would not only reform but transform education in Florida.

This transformation from archaic seat time requirements to academically rigorous, economically relevant education is in full force in schools like Tampa Bay Technical High School, which we visited during the first leg of our Work Plan Florida Tour.

While more than half of last year's U.S. college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, the ironic truth is that there are thousands of jobs in Florida unfilled because employers can't find workers whose skills meet industry specifications.

That's why Florida's education system needs to be linked to the realities and opportunities of the economy, and that's exactly what the new law does.

You can see that link in Tampa Bay Tech's Diesel Technology Academy, where students learn diesel engine repair and heavy equipment maintenance and operations from industry trained instructors like James Mitchell. Diesel engines are donated to the program by companies that then compete to hire its graduates.

The same is true of the school's Cisco Academy, headed by Jim Truitt, where we learned that high-tech employers are hiring graduates who spend three years at the Cisco Academy and earn industry certifications over recent college graduates whom the company would have to spend years training.

We visited Tampa Bay Tech's Medical Academy, where Elizabeth Campbell is preparing students to become certified nursing assistants. Their clinical training includes supervised experience in hospitals, nursing homes and home health settings. After taking the Florida certification exam, students can enter the workforce, continue their education, or both. In fact, Hillsborough County Superintendent MaryEllen Elia told our group that with more than 50 openings for school nurses, she hopes to soon hire program graduates in district schools.

The school's Digital Arts Academy, led by Craig Naylor and E.J. Bayonet, produces graphic designers, who are not only hot commodities in the Florida job market but are posting up against Tampa Bay's best advertising agencies and winning a trophy case full of Addy Awards.

In these four CAPE Academies, and a growing number of similar institutes in Florida high schools, students are walking off the graduation stage with something much more valuable than a high school diploma alone. With industry certifications in their hands, they're being aggressively recruited into real jobs in the real economy.

Unlike some vocational programs of the past, CAPE academies offer curricula designed by industry, taught by industry-certified instructors. Industry tests students' skills and industry awards certifications that are nationally recognized currency in the job market. Most importantly, industry then competes to hire the graduates.

CAPE academies started in 2007, and this school year the 100,000th national industry certification was awarded to a Florida high school student.

The CAPE Act of 2013 goes even further, fully integrating economically relevant career education into Florida's K-12 system. Under the expanded law, students will get more choices. They will have not only a college-prep option but also a career-technical option to obtain a high school diploma and earn national industry certifications in health care, digital arts, automotive technology, IT, aerospace, biotechnology and 240 more fields.

Additionally, online education will open up for tens of thousands more K-12 students, with college-age and adult students able to earn University of Florida degrees entirely online.

Whether online or in traditional classrooms, whether career-technical or college-prep, the same academic rigor will be required and the same diplomas and degrees will be awarded. But, thanks to the new law, preparing for college and for jobs can satisfy academic requirements in more hands-on, career-related ways. When students earn industry-granted certifications, their schools earn weighted funding, their teachers earn more money as students achieve certifications, and students themselves can move further and faster or get tailored help if they're struggling. And, as we saw at Tampa Bay Tech, the students are engaged, excited and successful.

Our goal is high and clear: We won't be satisfied and neither should you until Florida's students can walk off the graduation stage with diplomas and degrees that are passports to real jobs in the real economy. CAPE was truly the "jobs bill" of the 2013 legislative session and the transformational education act of the decade.

Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, far left, is president of the Florida Senate. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, is speaker of the Florida House. They wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

Comments
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/18/18
Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

Editorial: A sweet note for the Florida Orchestra’s violin program for at-risk kids

This is music to the ears. Members of the Florida Orchestra will introduce at-risk students to the violin this summer at some Hillsborough recreation centers. For free.An $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. will pay for s...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

Trump backs off China tariff threat as China pumps money into a Trump family project

In barely six weeks, President Donald Trump has gone from threatening to impose $150 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods to extending a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese cell phone company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with Iran and North K...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Editorial: Activism as seniors helps put Hillsborough graduates on the right path

Lots of teenagers are walking together this week in Hillsborough County, a practice they’ve grown accustomed to during this remarkable school year.We can only hope they keep walking for the rest of their lives.Tens of thousands of them this week are ...
Published: 05/17/18
Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Editorial: Bondi holds drug industry accountable for Florida opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s lawsuit against the nation’s largest drug makers and distributors marks a moment of awakening in the state’s battle to recover from the opioid crisis. In blunt, forceful language, Bondi accuses these companies of ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

Editorial: Johns Hopkins All Children’s should be more open about mistakes

A state investigation raises even more concern about medical errors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and the venerable St. Petersburg institution’s lack of candor to the community. Regulators have determined the hospital broke Florida law by ...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18