NWFSC, Okaloosa County Schools launch career and technical education initiative

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson and Northwest Florida State College President Ty Handy sign an agreement to work together in conjunction with industry partners to bring integrated career and technical education programs to local students.

Northwest Florida State College and the Okaloosa County School District have joined forces to develop a joint-use facility and programs to train the next generation of workers for Okaloosa County. The vision driving the integrated career and technical education initiative is to develop programs and curriculum that will create an opportunity for students to grow into tomorrow’s high-tech, high-skilled workforce for local businesses. 

This collaborative effort is driven by industry partners who will utilize the graduates of the programs being developed. A committee consisting of community and business leaders is serving as an advisory board for the effort and met for the first time at the Northwest Florida State College campus in Niceville Sept. 11.

The Career and Technical Education Administrative Advisory Committee outlined five goals for the initiative:

• Establish partnerships with the area’s industry and business community that focuses on meeting their current and future staffing needs.

• Develop programs that will offer student-centered, state-of-the-art curriculum, equipment and facilities.

• Develop curriculum that is structured to provide students with pathways that will guide them in their professional development and improve their ability to meet their personal employment milestones.

• Develop programs that focus, wherever available, on providing professional credentials that will support the staffing needs of our industry and business partners.

• Support and promote the “Institute of Technology” within the community as a quality option for those students wishing to develop and obtain the required skills and knowledge needed to secure sustainable high-skilled, high-wage employment. 

Dr. Ty Handy, president of Northwest Florida State College, said the joint effort will build on the combined strengths of the college and of the school district’s CHOICE program to “move forward with a united vision for career and technical education in Okaloosa County.”

Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson said her goal is to “work together to create a workforce to meet our community’s needs. We’re going to see this happen.”

Dennis Sherwood, dean of Career and Technical Education at NWF State College, said, “We can’t continue to put students in a box. We’ve got to meet the students where they are. This type of training is what will make them successful in the long run.”

Funding for the project is expected to be sought from all available sources including the RESTORE Act of 2012.

Advisory Committee members include: Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council (co-chair); Linda Sumblin, executive director of CareerSource Okaloosa Walton (co-chair); Okaloosa County Commissioner Nathan Boyles; Alan Baggett, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Okaloosa& Walton Counties; Skip Foster, publisher of the Northwest Florida Daily News; Luke Gianelloni, partnership development lead for the Air Force Research Lab; Ed Schroeder, director of the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department; Mitch Mongell, CEO of Fort Walton Beach Medical Center; and Dee Setzer of the Northwest Florida Manufacturers Council.