Career Training Turns Students Into Employees

A robotics class that's offered through Flagler County School District.

In February of this year, NPR updated a piece that had been written in 2018, adding new data and stories on the topic of jobs and education. As was the case in 2018, high-paying trade jobs — jobs that don’t require a college education — are going unfilled. In fact, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, “Today, nearly 90% of construction companies nationwide are having trouble finding qualified workers.”

This is no surprise to the employers in Flagler and St. Johns Counties, where unfilled jobs also include those in the hospitality industry, health care and community services, such as emergency responders. For years the school systems in both counties have worked to develop robust career training programs that serve all students, those who seek careers that require a college degree and those who do not. And both programs include the support and mentorship of members of the community.

Teresa Rizzo

Teresa Rizzo, executive director of the Flagler County Education Foundation, explained how the foundation supports career programs in the Flagler Schools. “We are the non-profit arm of the school district. Our mission is to bring financial and community awareness to enhance the programs that benefit students, families and teachers.” Teresa said that Flagler’s Classroom to Careers program begins long before high school. “We have programs that start in kindergarten, where we expose kids to different careers.”

They have various programs in the different elementary schools, including agricultural, robotics and STREAM, a module that adds reading, writing and the arts to STEM education. “We have Marine Science at Old Kings Elementary, and at Belle Terre Elementary, we have a drone program.” While the elementary programs are designed to expose students to a wide variety of careers, “there’s more opportunity for specialization in middle school, with programs on agronomy, engineering, entrepreneurial leadership, applied robotics and business and computer sciences.”

Similarly, the Career and Technical Education in St. Johns County also includes programs for students in middle school. For example, 5th graders in St. Johns County may apply to attend R. J. Murray Middle School’s Center for the Arts, where programs include dance, theater, chorus, visual art and graphic design. In the high schools, those students may choose to attend the Design Academy at Bartram High School, while others focus on technology, the medical profession, building science, teaching and more.

Teresa Rizzo of Flagler County describes the arc of their program, “We expose them in elementary school, start to specialize a bit in middle school, and in high school get all the training they need to get a certificate in the Fire Academy, for example.” High school students can earn college credits, get experience working in a hospital and work with the building trades.

The career programs in both schools work to build strong connections with the business community. In fact, the St. Johns County Career Academy requires that a program of study has a demonstrated need for employees within that career cluster and that there is a willing advisory board of business leaders from the chosen career cluster. In other words, these programs are designed not only to assist students in finding a career path but also to help the region teach future workers for jobs in many sectors.

Teresa Rizzo said that in addition to raising funds, the job of the Flagler County Education Foundation is to “conduct local corporations to the classrooms.” She went on to list a few local firms and individuals who work with the students and teachers, saying, “Chiumento Law helps support the law and justice academy; Advent Health provides scrubs for our nursing students to wear and supports our nursing program. We connect the businesses and corporations to support the programs because they want those employees.”

Both schools strive to provide career education that suits each student’s abilities and interests. A local judge may mentor those high school students who aspire to be lawyers, and HVAC and other trades support the programs that will provide workers for some of those vital unfilled jobs that don’t require a college degree. Both programs seek mentors for the students, and some programs have found local companies that can offer summer internships to students between their junior and senior years.

As Theresa Rizzo said, “The thing that I think matters most to me is that the partnership between education and the community is essential. If we want to raise productive citizens, there has to be a collaboration between education and the business community.” 

St. Johns County High School Academies

Allen D. Nease High School

  • Academy of Hospitality and Tourism
  • Communications Academy
  • Stellar Academy of Engineering

Bartram Trail High School Academies

  • Design Academy
  • Information Technology Academy
  • VyStar Academy of Business & Finance

Beachside High School Academies

  • Academy of Information Technology
  • Academy of Global Logistics & Supply Management
  • Academy of Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences

Creekside High School Academies

  • Academy of Emerging Technology
  • Academy of Engineering & Environmental Sciences
  • St. Johns County Academy of Future Teachers

Pedro Menendez High School Academies

  • Academy of Architectural and Building Sciences

  • Flagler Hospital Academy of Medical & Health Careers
  • VyStar Academy of Business and Finance

Ponte Vedra High School Academies

  • Academy of Biotechnology and Medical Research
  • Academy of Information Technology
  • Academy of International Business and Marketing.
  • St. Johns County Academy of Future Educators

St. Augustine High School Academies

  • Academy of Law and Homeland Security
  • St. Johns County Academy of Future Teachers
  • Aviation and Aerospace Academy

St. Johns Technical High School Academies

  • Academy of Culinary Arts
  • Academy of Aquaculture

Tocoi Creek High School Academies

  • Academy of Future Healthcare Professionals
  • Academy of Innovation in the Built Environment
  • Academy of Leadership in Emerging Technologies

Flagler County Career Clusters in the High Schools

  • Agriculture, Food, and Natural Sciences: Flagler-Palm Coast High School
  • Architecture and Construction: Flagler-Palm Coast High School and Matanzas High School 
  • Arts, A/V Technology, Communications: Flagler-Palm Coast High School
  • Health Science: Flagler-Palm Coast High School
  • Hospitality and Tourism: Flagler-Palm Coast High School and Matanzas High School 
  • Information Technology: Matanzas High School 
  • Law, Public Safety, and Security: Flagler-Palm Coast High School and Matanzas High School 
  • Manufacturing: Flagler-Palm Coast High School 
  • Marketing, Sales, and Service: Flagler-Palm Coast High School and Matanzas High School