According to the Florida Department of Education, Florida’s CTE programs section is responsible for developing and maintaining educational programs that prepare individuals for occupations important to Florida’s economic development.
When it comes to CTE, Santa Rosa County District Schools has both academies and pathways students can take.
According to Jennifer Hines, the coordinator of workforce education in Santa Rosa District Schools, pathways are focused on getting students prepared through job skills. Academies start at the middle school level. Students can earn industry certifications through both.
The school district offers a variety of certifications. All of which are selected by the district for schools.
When the district picks which certifications it will be handing out, they do so based on a number of factors including whether a course curriculum goes with it or whether a teacher has the same certification.
“The standards have to be aligned to curriculum,” Hines said. “It can’t just be any industry certification.”
Hines said there is a list the state gives them about what certifications they can offer. The teachers must hold the certification prior to their students, meaning if they don’t have it, they don’t teach it.
The academies have grown tremendously in recent years. In 2012, there were 24 total academies across the school district. Now that number is at 66. That doesn’t even count the certifications Locklin Technical College offers. Approximately 9,000 students are in Santa Rosa’s CTE programs.
2022 is the first year the district is offering academies and pathways in elementary schools. The move is to help give students a look at potential careers earlier in their lives. Regional business needs have been the driver for the expansion of the program in local schools.
“The need and demands from industry are what drives the growth of academies,” Hines said.
Career Source Escarosa provides them with information on what career fields are in demand in Northwest Florida. The school district also works with community business partners to help formulate opportunities for students.
She said providing students access to all the academies no matter what school they go to is also a major reason the CTE programs have expanded.
Some of the biggest CTE programs the school district offers are teacher academies, health and science academies, and cybersecurity. Business, digital design, and entrepreneurship academies are also among the most popular in the district.
In the entrepreneurship academy, students learn critical thinking skills, how to adapt, communicate, collaborate, and how to develop a business model and plan.
Randy Parazine teaches several academies at Milton High School, including entrepreneurship, digital design, and Digital information technology (DIT).
Parazine teaches three different digital design courses, with each building upon the last. In his digital design courses, students learn how to use Adobe applications such as photoshop, illustrator, Premiere Pro, and InDesign.
Not only do they learn about it, but students also get certifications. In DIT, his students do essentially the same thing but with Microsoft Office applications.
The entrepreneurship class Parazine teaches has 14 students right now, who learn all about the ins and outs of running a business.
“In that class, we do a Shark Tank project,” Parazine said. “I have some people from the community come in.”
Shark Tank is a television show which features a group of successful businesspeople who listen to pitches from upcoming entrepreneurs about their business startups. Last year, Parazine brought business leaders from the Milton and Pace communities to judge his students’ pitches.
Parazine said a banker, a man who owns several businesses, a former business owner, and Alyssa Schepper, the owner of Alyssa’s in Pace, were among the panelists. To prepare for the Shark Tank pitch, students spent more than a month preparing their project.
“They had to come up with either an original business idea or an improvement on an already existing idea,” Parazine said. “They have to write a business plan, create a commercial, have some type of presentation, so it’s a pretty in-depth process.”
The day of their presentation, the students dressed up and went before the “sharks” to showcase their business idea. They videotaped the pitches and afterwards, the class dissected what improvements could be made to the presentation and pitch.
Parazine said he also does job interview training with the entrepreneurship students.
“Not only does it help them interview for a job, but it also helps them if they were ever to own a business to see what the process is like,” Parazine said.
The students fill out applications, create resumes, and prepare for job interviews for real life jobs.
As part of the academy, students take an entrepreneurship and small business exam to earn a certification. From the Shark Tank project to the exam, all of what is in the academy is meant to give students a better understanding of entrepreneurship and prepare them to potentially run their own businesses one day. This is especially true for students who are not likely to go to college.
“Not every kid is going to go to college,” Parazine said. “I’ve got a student whose dad owns a concrete company and he’ll never go to college, but this class allows him to help run his dad’s business. There are a lot of kids like that, they need this stuff because it gets them prepared for life.”