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Florida Lieutenant Governor awards $600K grant to Jacksonville apprenticeship program

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — February is Career and Technical Education Month, and the State of Florida has been making some big investments in the field in recent years.

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Action News Jax spoke exclusively with Florida’s Lieutenant Governor during her visit to a training program here in the Bold City Friday.

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Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeannette Núñez stopped in to award a $618,000 grant to the Jacksonville Plumbers and Pipefitters Joint Apprenticeship & Training Trust in Edgewood.

The five-year apprenticeship program covers HVAC systems, plumbing, welding and pipefitting.

Read: JEA announces the State of Florida released $5.7 million in federal grants

It allows students like Meghan Nemeth to work in the field and learn their trade at the same time.

Nemeth said after bouncing around jobs in retail and insurance, she quit her job on the spot when she learned about the program.

“I walked in and I still had my insurance clothes on, he’s like, are you in the right spot? I’m like I am exactly where I need to be,” said Nemeth, who is now a fourth-year apprentice.

Starting salaries in the fields covered under the program hover around $60,000 a year, and there’s no shortage of demand for workers.

Read: $5 million grant awarded to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to hire more officers

“Right now, we can’t meet the demand,” said Kirk Barras, Training Director of Local 234 Plumbers & Pipefitters.

It’s why the State of Florida has invested so heavily in promoting training and apprenticeship programs like the one here in Jacksonville.

The state has put up $6.8 billion over the past five years.

“We recognize there are multiple pathways for students. Success is often dictated by one being able to contribute to the economy, contribute to your own personal success,” said Núñez.

And that funding has resulted in more than five million students engaging in career and technical education coursework and 36 new apprenticeship programs since 2019.

Read: Jacksonville Humane Society awarded grant to expand education outreach and bring ‘pawsitive reading’

It’s helped students like Nemeth pursue their passions, and make a decent paycheck while in the process.

“The years are going to pass while you’re in college. You still might not figure that out. The years will pass here, but you’ll be making more money,” said Nemeth.

Barras noted the $618,000 grant awarded Friday will go a long way.

It’s about a quarter of the program’s annual budget.

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Núñez added Floridians can expect to see continued funding in the next state budget.

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