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Legislature can enhance image of tech centers
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Updated: 04/23/2014 08:00:02AM

Legislature can enhance image of tech centers

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The Florida Senate is considering a bill that would allow technical schools to grant applied associates degrees and change their name to include college. We believe the changes will make the schools more attractive and expand an employee pool that is too shallow now.

One of the greatest obstacles to attracting students to schools like Polk County’s Ridge Career Center is that parents don’t want students “institutionalized.” In other words they want their kids to have a college degree.

The stigma behind tech centers such as those in Polk County, is that too many people have a different attitude toward a degree from a tech center than they do a degree from a “college.”

And that is the big reason why some technical school leaders are excited about a bill that has already passed the Florida House that would allow county tech centers to designate themselves a college and give graduates of their programs an applied associates degree.

We believe the new law would put a new perspective on technical degrees and draw more students to classes that would not only give them the best opportunity for a career but bolster local job markets that are short on qualified employees.

Many of the fastest-growing jobs in our market require technical school training.

The construction industry has been especially hard hit by a lack of qualified personnel like electricians and heating and cooling technicians. Some auto dealerships and garages are finding it difficult to find certified mechanics.

There are a number of quality jobs available to anyone who has the right training — and a degree in the field would be a door-buster for anyone seeking employment.

Not every student is meant for a four-year college. Those who complain about dead-end jobs or low pay don’t have to look too far for better opportunities.

They are here in construction, in auto mechanics in culinary arts and more than a dozen other fields paying higher-than-average wages.

If the Senate passes the bill, all that’s left to do is for local school districts to market these associate degrees to young people who are tired of minimum wage jobs.

That should be an easy sell.

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