May 29, 2020
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Education Fuels the New Workforce

Susan Shalhoub | 3/11/2020

Building on the area’s workforce needs, exploring new fields and encouraging global collaborations give Brevard County schools and universities the leading edge.

Industry exposure

Brevard County Public Schools Superintendent Mark W. Mullins, a CareerSource Brevard board member, is passionate about strategic, diverse education that boosts the workforce, entrepreneurship, innovation and skilled trades. He works to create opportunities for kids to find paths that resonate with them — whether that be college or career.

“What we hear from businesses here is that they are looking for a workforce that can adapt to a changing work environment with problem-solving and soft skills,” he says.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) school programs are bridging the gap. With over 50 such programs so far, all include core curriculum, with career themes and industry-certification opportunities.

Defense, aviation and aerospace are represented in CTEs. Students can also explore robotics or coding, or even more traditional, in-demand trades such as HVAC installation or welding. Additional programs include construction, law and nursing. Culinary is a recent add, says Mullins.

The Environmental Water and Reclamation Technology CTE is especially relevant in regards to the Indian River Lagoon, he says. Kids are training for careers in water technology and water management. Classes are offered at Heritage High School in Palm Bay.

Higher education

The Space Coast’s higher education outlets align themselves with area companies, designing curriculum around workforce needs. Its nine colleges and universities put local industry partnerships, global impact and research endeavors front and center.

From Melbourne’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University aviation and aeronautics, to astronauts among esteemed alumni at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), the area fully embraces its unique past while propelling itself further into space research,\ travel and innovation.

FIT’s new Buzz Aldrin Space Institute is led by the Apollo 11 astronaut himself. The university’s Human Spaceflight Laboratory — established in 2017 — is a Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation. Working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), it researches infrastructure for private human spaceflight and mitigation of orbital debris.

University of Central Florida has two campuses here, as does Eastern Florida State College.

Eastern, which is constructing its first residence hall, has a new advanced-manufacturing facility and Mechatronics Lab. It just launched the Space Coast Consortium Apprenticeship Program, partnering with area companies like RUAG Space, OneWeb and Matrix Composites to serve the area’s advanced-manufacturing industry needs.

“We don’t try to produce grads to go to another state,” says Eastern Florida State College Associate Provost Frank Margiotta. “We work very closely with local industry to educate and train the highly skilled employees they need.”

Taking a global view

The region’s higher-education institutions also don’t limit themselves in terms of industry or geography. They develop burgeoning areas like biomedical engineering and take a decidedly global view.

FIT is building an $18-million, 61,000-square-foot Health Sciences Research Center that will double the size of its biomedical engineering program for undergraduates. It will also add about 100 students to its pre-med program, offering innovative learning methods such as augmented reality and VR education.

Webster University’s Merritt Island campus just added a cyber-security master’s degree to meet demand. Students are exposed to academic programs, other students and cultures from around the world. Keiser University, with a campus in Melbourne, has regionally accredited locations where students can study around the world in Nicaragua, China, Taiwan and South Korea.

Tags: Space Coast, Brevard Community Portrait

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