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Students Praise Florida CTE Programs: ‘It’s a Blessing’

Source: “Get There” December Newsletter

Tallahassee, Fla. (December 26, 2022) – The Florida Department of Education highlighted students who are taking advantage of Florida’s Career Technical Education (CTE) Programs in the “Get There” December newsletter.

Shannon Beechum is currently a part of the Aircraft Electrician Apprenticeship through a partnership between St. Johns River State College and Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE).

“I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do and I got paid to go to school. It’s unbelievable. It’s a blessing,” Beechum said.

Beechum has completed 18 free credit hours of classroom training through the apprenticeship at SJR and is now involved in full-time, hands-on training at FRCSE at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville.

The apprentice program includes four years of intensive training in a skilled trade in areas such as aircraft electricians, aircraft mechanics, electronics mechanics, machinists, painters, pneudraulic systems mechanics and sheet metal mechanics.

Beechum decided on the aircraft electrician program because she is interested in how airplanes work. She had originally planned to join the military, but said the FRCSE apprenticeship program provided a “similar path.”

Beechum explained that the apprenticeship gives her “the freedom to learn” on her own and also with others who are already experienced.

“My current role as an apprentice on the floor gives me the freedom to learn by myself and with others to enhance my knowledge on things I didn’t know before or think that I could do. Every day, I’m guided by an artisan who’s already out on the aircraft line and has experience on the specific airplane, and we tackle situations one-on-one,” said Beechum.

Beechum said the program is “rewarding” and explained her gratitude to those that have guided her through the apprenticeship.

“It’s rewarding to be able to gain the trust of the artisans who see great potential in me and give me the opportunity to perform tasks by myself, or to work side by side with them. I’ve gained so many friendships with people on the floor who have supported me along the way, and I thank everyone who has shaped me into who I am today as an apprentice. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their guidance,” said Beechum.

Wakulla High School student Edgar Caquimbo sat down for an interview with Florida Department of Education’s Division of Career and Adult Education Chancellor Kevin O’Farrell. Caquimbo is enrolled in a high school CTE program because of a partnership with Able Trust that allows him to have hands on experience in the automotive field.

Caquimbo said he plans on “jumping right into a shop” after he receives his CTE degree.

Caquimbo will graduate high school with three certifications so far in the automotive program including the safety certification, the steering suspension certification and is “about to” get the electrical certification.

O’Farrell gave credit to Caquimbo and told him to not “give up” and explained that he will end up in a “rewarding career.”

“You’re in school, you’re showing up, you’re putting in the effort. I would say don’t give up, you know, you’ll always have challenges, when you’re learning something new, it’s not always easy, right? [….] As you continue to put in that effort, that energy, you will find yourself with a great, promising, and rewarding career,” said O’Farrell.

O’Farrell explained the benefit of the CTE programs and that by utilizing them individuals can get “right into the workforce.”

“It really provides the individual a short-term kind of program of study that leads to a high-wage in-demand vocation [….] So rather than going to University, you can get the skills that you need to get right into the workforce and you can do it at a fraction of the cost,” said O’Farrell.

“Everything that you’re learning, every single day is something that you can actually go into the workplace and use,” O’Farrell continued.

Caquimbo’s two brothers are also involved in CTE programs including the HVAC program and the welding program.

DeSantis set a goal to make Florida the number one state in the nation for workforce education by 2030. CTE programs are a major component of workforce education and are responsible for preparing individuals for occupations important to Florida’s economic development. These programs are organized into 17 different career clusters and are geared toward middle school, high school, district technical school, and Florida College System students throughout the state.

In October, DeSantis awarded more than $2.7 million to help 28 school districts and state colleges purchase industry standard equipment for CTE programs across Florida. The funding was to better equip students as they prepare for job opportunities in high demand fields and includes several CTE programs impacted by Hurricane Ian in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Highlands counties.

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