Saying he wants to spend $20 million to help technical schools respond quickly to employer needs, Gov. Rick Scott on Monday began what is likely to be a stream of announcements about his upcoming budget proposal.
Scott’s office said 48 technical colleges and centers would be eligible for competitive grants, which would be geared toward programs that could be completed in less than 52 weeks. The “Career in a Year” initiative would include programs like licensed practical nursing, which takes 45 weeks and has 2,361 openings in Florida, and welding, a 39-week program that could offer a path to one of 583 jobs.
“Our technical centers do a great job preparing students for a career in just one year,” Scott said in a statement issued by his office. “We know the workers of tomorrow are in our classrooms today — and advanced workforce training at our technical centers will help our students receive the skills they need to be competitive in the global market.”
The governor also promoted the program at stops in Orlando and Miami.
State officials said such a grant program could help lure additional industries and employers to the state. Scott built his initial campaign for governor five years ago on his ability to bring jobs to Florida and has since focused heavily on that purpose — sometimes to the extent of ignoring other responsibilities, critics say.
“The rapid response grant will enable the technical centers to respond quickly with technical training in support of new and emerging occupations which are a direct result of the governor’s efforts to grow and diversify the industries in Florida,” said Marsan Carr, executive director of the Florida Association for Career and Technical Education, in a statement issued through Scott’s office.
Scott recently has pushed for lawmakers to eliminate the sales tax on manufacturing equipment, following a three-year moratorium that the Legislature approved in 2013. The tax is scheduled to return in 2017. Scott last year projected that companies would have to pay $142.5 million annually if the tax is again collected. Also, he has pushed for legislators to give more funding for economic-development incentives.
But Monday’s announcement marked the first new initiative for Scott’s proposed budget, which will be considered by lawmakers during the 2016 legislative session.
The announcement is one of several that Scott is likely to make before unveiling his full spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1. The final announcement is expected before the annual session starts in January.
Scott could float another proposal Wednesday, when he is set to meet with editors and reporters from across the state at an annual event hosted by the Associated Press. The governor has sometimes used the gathering to reveal his entire budget proposal, but this year’s event comes earlier than usual because lawmakers will begin the session in January instead of the traditional March start date.
–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida