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Guest Opinion: College is not the only path to success, and it’s OK to say it
June 27, 2018

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If we truly want to make Florida first, every Floridian should have the opportunity to find their piece of the American Dream right here in the Sunshine State.

Liberal elites would tell you that requires a four-year university degree, but it's just not true. Too many of our kids are pressured into college, leaving them with degrees they can't use and bills they can't pay. But with the right skills and training, there are good-paying careers to be had.

Our parents and grandparents - they built this country with their hands, and they made a good living doing so. Our next generation should have the same opportunity: to have a hand in building our future and make a good living doing so.

As a state, we'll need 2 million more jobs over the next decade to accommodate Florida's population growth. Of the 100 fastest growing jobs in Florida, more than half of them will require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree.

We ought to build more boats in the state that's the fishing capital of the world and the state that put the man on the moon ought to be producing the workforce to help the innovative minds on the Space Coast reach Mars. Whether it's building the next generation of Coast Guard cutters or working to restore power across the state after a hurricane, Florida has to have the skilled workforce to make that happen. I want those jobs to go to Florida men and women who are interested in working hard, earning good wages and building a brighter, better Florida.

Florida's students must be given the skills and experience they need to compete in this economy - and win.

Recently, I released my "Florida Jobs First Agenda," which details my plan to modernize career training to include 21st century skills like coding, advanced manufacturing and health care. I plan to bring businesses to the table in developing curriculum for vocational and technical education so students will learn the skills they'll need for real jobs. And I will build on existing apprenticeship programs so more students can "earn while they learn" a modern-day trade.

But these efforts will have little impact without high quality teachers and instructors ready and willing to pass on their skills to the next generation workforce. We have failed to recognize the value and contributions of teachers who lead vocational and technical training courses. Not once have we as a state awarded a CTE teacher the coveted "Teacher of the Year."

We need to destigmatize vocational and technical training. We need to get back to honoring and respecting experts of a trade. College is not the only path to success, and it's OK to say it.

- Adam Putnam is a citrus grower and cattle rancher in Bartow, Florida. He is the Commissioner of Agriculture and a Republican candidate for governor.

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