DeSantis signs bill to boost apprenticeship efforts

Photo: News Service of Florida
Photo: News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Monday a wide-ranging education bill highlighted by efforts to expand workforce training and apprenticeships.

The law (HB 7071), signed during an appearance at Space Florida in Merritt Island, continues many goals that DeSantis included in a January executive order, which was geared toward expanding vocational and technical training in the state.

“I think it’s important that our education system recognizes that there is more than one way to get advanced knowledge and skills beyond the traditional four-year brick and ivy university,” DeSantis said. “Some of these concrete skills are in as much demand as ever. We want to make (sure) that our system is nimble enough to recognize that and produce graduates that have a capacity to earn a good living when they get out of school.”

The legislation, which passed unanimously in the House and the Senate, seeks to create a new pathway to high-school graduation focused on technical and vocational training and would inject more money into apprenticeship programs.

A $90.98 billion budget DeSantis signed Friday includes $10 million he requested in the January executive order to seed “high-quality workforce apprenticeships.”

Under the legislation signed Monday, all school districts will be required to give students the option to partially fulfill high-school diploma requirements by completing two credits in work-based learning programs and two credits in career and technical education.

Starting in the 2019-2020 school year, students will be able to graduate using that option with a 2.0 grade point average.

Lawmakers also voted to create a grant program at the Florida Department of Education that would inject money into adding new apprenticeship programs and expanding existing programs. The department would prioritize programs that demonstrate “regional demand.”

Other bill provisions would allow students to substitute a computer-science credit for a math or science credit and require school districts to offer financial-literacy courses as electives. The financial literacy proposal was added to the bill in honor of the late Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who died last year of cancer and championed the financial-literacy issue for years.