JUNO BEACH — On Dec. 10, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) announced $1 million donation to buy more than 1,600 laptops for students to use in rapid credentialing programs to obtain the skills they need to get back to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
FPL’s donation comes on the heels of Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education launch of the Get There Florida initiative, in which they raised awareness of rapid credentialing programs.
“Since taking office, workforce development has been a top priority of my administration, and during the pandemic, a lot of students have encountered challenges accessing the technology they need to complete their courses,” said DeSantis. “I set a goal to make Florida the best state in the nation for workforce development by 2030, and this generous donation of more than 1,600 laptops from FPL for use in rapid credentialing programs will help keep us on track for that goal. I look forward to the state’s continued partnership with the private sector and our career and technical education centers, and Florida colleges to help put students interested in high-value career and technical education programs on a path to success.”
The programs offer students an opportunity to obtain high-value technical certificates and certifications in industries including advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, healthcare and information technology often in 20 weeks or less.
“At FPL, we’re continuing to do everything we can to support our customers and communities during this unprecedented time,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “Workforce development is critical to the future of our state’s economy, and we believe the rapid credentialing programs will have a significant impact on the lives of many Floridians. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to these programs because a technology gap has formed, in many cases because of a financial setback. This initiative will help break down that barrier to opportunity.”
The donation will cover around 500 laptops at Miami Dade College (MDC), 445 laptops at Palm Beach State College (PBSC), around 400 at Broward College and 300 at the State College of Florida (SCF), Manatee-Sarasota. The colleges expect there to be enough laptops for every student who enrolls in the rapid credential programs.
“More than half of our students are low-income and some of them may not have access to essential learning tools, such as a computer and internet. This gift of a free laptop can potentially make a huge impact in their lives and success,” said Miami Dade College Interim President Rolando Montoya. “The hope is that students, upon completion of the program, would then go on and use this laptop as they join the workforce or return to college to continue their education.”
MDC’s Kick-Start Your Career program, which offers unique certificates in high-demand fields, launched this past summer during the pandemic and the college has seen enrollment double since then.
“Palm Beach State’s partnership with FPL is rooted in our shared commitment to serving our community,” said PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D. “By providing laptops to students in need, FPL is granting our students access to one indispensable tool that will transform their ability to effectively engage toward their academic success.”
PBSC student Trace Tidwell, a Marine Corps veteran and Palm Beach County Water Utilities intern, turned to the Department of Veterans Affairs at the beginning of the pandemic for help in buying a better laptop for remote learning. He said a laptop will not only help for class, but in applying for jobs.
“A lot of the students have a laptop that’s five to seven years old. It was a hand-me-down from a sister or brother who went to college, and now they’re struggling with it,” Tidwell said. “If you sit down at a school computer or at another that’s not your own, you’re subject to the time you have right then and there. A resume is ever-changing. With your own laptop, you can update it anytime, or you could see a job opening posted somewhere and apply right away. A computer is a very valuable tool.”
FPL and Broward College hope this announcement will entice individuals to enroll in school to help them prepare for their careers. Broward College has seen about a 15% decline in overall enrollment that, to a great extent, is due to the pandemic, the need for social distancing, and moving to remote or online teaching.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has materially impaired the lives of our most vulnerable students,” said Broward College President Gregory Adam Haile, J.D. “Despite job loss, mounting bills, and an environment requiring social distancing, many students sustain the courage and will to transform their lives via a quality educational opportunity provided by Broward College. In this remote learning environment, a lack of technology could make such transformation unattainable. Broward College is grateful to FPL for their technological support. Because of FPL, students will have the tools to persevere and transform their lives.”
SCF President Dr. Carol F. Probstfeld added: “With the scholarships, career coaching and now free laptops from FPL, our students have a wonderful opportunity to be rapidly credentialed. This initiative will help our students enter new occupations or advance their existing careers.”