Florida Colleges Get Funds to Boost CDL, Technician Jobs

Investments Will Help Spur Hurricane Recovery
South Florida State College's Jamie Bateman (left), vice president for institutional advancement and external affairs, and President Tom Leitzel accept a rounded ceremonial check. (South Florida State College)

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Florida’s governor has awarded more than $3 million to schools for commercial driver licenses and diesel technician programs to create jobs needed to help with regional recovery from Hurricane Ian.

Gov. Ron DeSantis awarded $7.7 million Nov. 16 to support a large-scale rapid credentialing effort among three state colleges, two technical colleges and local workforce development boards with a large chunk going to trucking industry jobs.

“Following Hurricane Ian, several high-skill and high-wage occupations like trucking and logistics, health care, information technology, manufacturing and diesel maintenance will be needed in the region,” the governor’s office stated.

Coming from Florida’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grant program and the Job Growth Grant Fund, the state money will help students in hurricane-impacted counties graduate with CDLs and increase job opportunities for short-term, high-impact training in manufacturing and technology. Other programs involve welding, logistics and aviation maintenance.


Fort Myers Technical College students do some hands-on learning. (Fort Myers Technical College via Facebook)

“Today’s awards will go a long way for Southwest Florida communities that are still working to get back on their feet following Hurricane Ian, and I look forward to the opportunities these programs will create for Floridians,” said Dane Eagle, secretary of the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

The State College of Florida is receiving $2.9 million for its CDL credentialing program, while South Florida State College was awarded $618,842 on its CDL, welding and tractor programs. Fort Myers Technical College is getting $973,000 to start new programs for diesel maintenance mechanics and in computerized numerical control.

South Florida State College said it will use the grant to pay for student scholarships, a full-time instructor and a tractor-trailer to expand the CDL program. Also machines, simulators and positioners will be purchased to train students in welding and enable daytime instruction.

In September, DeSantis provided $8.2 million to five state colleges to train at least 1,200 new truck drivers yearly.


DeSantis hosts a press conference. (Career Force Southwest Florida)

State funding this year already enabled South Florida State College to buy truck-driving simulators for new students.

Joe Burke, a 36-year former truck driver coordinates and teaches the college’s commercial vehicle driver program. Lasting four weeks, the course offers in-depth, hands-on truck driving experience and provides connections with future employers. About 260 students are accepted into the program annually.

To enhance rapid credentialing, $482,000 is being awarded to the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to provide credentialing program equipment across the five awarded educational institutions. In addition, a $1 million grant is going to CareerSource Suncoast, Heartland and Southwest Florida to provide training and support for rapid credentialing programs in workforce development to help displaced job seekers and businesses.

Other allocations included $200,000 for practical nursing credentialing programs at Cape Coral Technical College and $1.9 million for information technology credential programs at Florida Southwestern College.

“Hurricane Ian caused unimaginable loss to families across Southwest Florida,” Manny Diaz Jr., state education commissioner, remarked. “Some will have to completely start over and others will have to go to significant lengths to mitigate the financial impact. Due to the unwavering support and leadership of Gov. DeSantis, this funding will allow our educational institutions to lighten the burden and transform lives through workforce education.”

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