HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Local educators are hinting at the future of what the Tampa Bay workforce could look like and how students are now choosing to adjust their career paths based the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The support that we’re seeing from our Department of Education really is striking… and exciting… and welcome,” said Jason Boys who serves as the Director for Workforce Education programs at St. Petersburg College.

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This week, Governor Ron DeSantis announced a new initiative to invest $75 million in federal funding into Florida’s education system. Students K-12 and local colleges will have more access to workforce education across Tampa Bay.

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“Manufacturing, hospitality and entertainment, a lot of major hospitals, so healthcare and allied health, and then of course entrepreneurship,” said Boys. The goal this time around – to help drive Florida’s economic recovery. “In Florida, especially given the high amount of hospitality jobs in the industry, there’s certainly been a hit from COVID-19, which kind of makes it a good time for [students] to be able to get some credentialing, get a new skills set,” he said.

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In a statement from Governor DeSantis, he says the initiative will accelerate Florida’s efforts to be the best state in the nation for workforce development by 2030.

“I do think they’re putting their money where their mouth is on that,” said Boys. “I’m always trying to keep an ear to what’s going on across the industries, where the needs are and what we can do, then, to train community members to fill those spots.” Boys tells CW44 News At 10 the need is higher than ever before to help Floridians gain access to this education and training, adding “Obviously, all of that loss of job across the region and the state had trickled across the entire economy.”

$50 million in federal funding will cover workforce college credit and resources for high school students like tutoring transportation and workshops.

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“I see an extremely diverse and highly skilled workforce, based on what I see in the classrooms right now, so that’s a pretty powerful workforce,” said Boys. The remaining $25 million will target adult learners enrolling in workforce education programs at state colleges and technical centers to help alleviate financial burdens. He concludes, “I’ve seen a lot of students who have just taken this as, ‘I need to go another path. I need to get some better skills and change my career. Maybe try to put myself in a place where I’m not so susceptible to this situation, should something like this come up again.”