Over $1 million is going to colleges in Bradenton to boost workforce, DeSantis says

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
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Flanked by line workers holding signs that said, “Truck Yeah,” Gov. Ron DeSantis announced $2.3 million in funding Thursday for six state colleges offering commercial driver’s license and nursing certification programs.

“If you look at our economy now, a four-year university degree is not always the best way to be successful,” DeSantis said. “In fact, you have a lot of people who will go deep into debt and will end up with a degree in something like ‘zombie-studies’ and then they wonder why the seas don’t part for them. It’s not necessarily about having a sheet of paper, but it’s really about what skills or knowledge are you being equipped with.”

DeSantis said $930,000 will go to the State College of Florida, which has campuses in Bradenton and Venice; $550,000 to Manatee Technical College in Bradenton; $415,000 to South Florida State College in Avon Park and $100,000 to North Florida Technical College in Starke, all for commercial drivers license programs.

For nursing programs, he said $135,000 will go to Florida Gateway College, based in Lake City, with campuses in Bell, Cross City and Olustee, and $150,000 to the College of Florida Keys in Key West.

The additional funding furthers the goal of Florida becoming the top state in workforce education by 2030, DeSantis said. Last year, he signed three bills supporting vocational education and the last state budget included $10 million for apprenticeship grants, $25 million for workforce funds at state colleges and $600,000 in mini grants the Department of Education and Career Source Florida will be awarding for apprenticeships.

It also aims to address a workforce shortage, with the American Truckers Association estimating 1.1 million new truck drivers needed in the next 10 years and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating the same number of nurses needed by 2022.

DeSantis claimed vaccine mandates nationwide could be contributing to the shortages, and that protections in Florida would allow people to keep their jobs. His remarks appeared to back the unsupported claim that vaccines are unsafe for those who are pregnant.

“Think about how ridiculous it is what they’re doing with trying to force the nurses with these vaxes,” he said. “A lot of these nurses have had COVID. A lot of them are younger. Some of them are trying to have families. You know, there’s a whole bunch of things going on. You have places in other states, they will fire the nurses because of the vax.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out a health alert in September saying it “strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination either before or during pregnancy because the benefits of vaccination outweigh known or potential risks” of getting COVID-19.

Speaking at Thursday’s event, Joe Wright, chairman of Southeast Milk, said those with commercial drivers licenses can earn between $65,000 and $80,000. DeSantis said the certifications could allow people to start lucrative careers.

“In my generation it was like you have to go to college, otherwise you’ll never be successful,” DeSantis said. “And really that was never true, but certainly not now.“

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