Guest presenters:

  • Henry Mack, Chancellor, Career, Technical and Adult Education, Florida Department of Education (FDOE)
  • Susan Biszewski-Eber, M.A., Apprenticeship Coordinator, St. Petersburg College
  • Jenna Silva, HR Training Coordinator, Geographic Solutions

Opening remarksElisia Norton, Business & Workforce Development Director, CareerSource Florida

FCAN hostKathy McDonald, Assistant Director for Network Partnerships

In advance of National Apprenticeship Week next month (Nov. 8-14), FCAN hosted an October 27 webinar showcasing the evolution and current state of the apprenticeship model in Florida. Guest presenters also shared how apprenticeship programs in Florida are expanding into nontraditional fields like IT and healthcare to address critical talent gaps in the state.

A Shift in the Apprenticeship Model

Elisia Norton, business & workforce development director for CareerSource Florida, opened the webinar by sharing how the apprenticeship model fits into her organization’s goals for the state.

“Our overarching vision is for Florida to become the global leader for talent,” Norton said. “It was four years ago when we gained a momentous boost to do just that in the form of a U.S. Department of Labor State Apprenticeship Expansion Grant.”

The grant encouraged states to expand and diversify registered apprenticeships to better respond to industry workforce demands, especially for underrepresented Floridians such as women, ethnic and racial minorities, ex-offenders, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and young adults (16-24). The focus was to connect talent with high-demand industries — IT, healthcare, and aerospace/aviation — that were not typically utilizing apprenticeships.

The Benefits of Apprenticeships

Susan Biszewski-Eber, apprenticeship coordinator with St. Petersburg College, noted that when Florida’s apprenticeship statute was created in 1947, “it was primarily for construction and trades, and primarily based on hours.”

She also shared how, with the expansion of apprenticeship programs into “non-traditional” industries over the last decade, the model is reinvigorating workforce programs at state and technical colleges while increasing enrollment in academic programs that lead to certificate and degree completion.

“Apprenticeships are creating employment pathways,” Biszewski-Eber said. She added that the apprentices themselves benefit from having a full-time job in their career area, mentorship, and little-to-no college debt.

Meanwhile, the benefits for employers include supporting local talent and the fact that an apprentice’s pay only rises as they hit performance benchmarks. And because employers are investing in their workers, it often improves retention rates while transferring organizational knowledge from employees nearing retirement to the next generation of talent.

“In order to find talent that has potential, we need to find candidates that are looking for organizations such as ours that will take a chance on letting them showcase their skills,” said Jenna Silva, HR training coordinator for Geographic Solutions.

Silva shared the employer perspective along with some lessons learned from her company’s computer systems analyst apprenticeship. Her advice to colleges that are considering connecting with employers to create an apprenticeship program is to “know your market, and know what type of employer you’re going to be working with. For Geographic Solutions, our apprentices needed to have a strong technology base.”

Aligning Apprenticeships and Education to Prepare Florida’s Workforce

Florida has been working to create system alignment that advances registered apprenticeships and postsecondary education linked to career pathways in order to build a stable, highly-skilled workforce. Henry Mack, chancellor of career, technical and adult education for FDOE, noted that the state’s commitment to registered apprenticeships is strategic, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know that a vast majority of businesses have experienced greater-than-average declines in revenue across the state,” Chancellor Mack said. “We also know that the COVID emergency has exacerbated this divide between the skills that individuals have and the opportunities for re-employment or advancement in employment.”

A continued increase in registered apprentices can help address that divide. According to Chancellor Mack, Florida increased the number of registered apprentices by 4,100 since last year, which represents a 30% improvement. There are also 37 new pre-apprenticeship programs during that same time period.

Still, Chancellor Mack also noted that almost 64% of those who filed for unemployment nationwide during COVID-19 did not have a postsecondary degree.

“While we know there are other credentials of value that are out there — including the culmination of a registered apprenticeship program — we also know that new employment opportunities are shifting to individuals with a degree in hand,” Chancellor Mack said. “There is an opportunity to connect registered apprenticeship participants to our degree programs.”

Show Notes

To learn more about the apprenticeship model in Florida — or to view the webinar and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources:

Apprentice Florida — Website l Video
Office of Apprenticeships (Florida Department of Education)
Handout: Apprenticeship Programs in Florida Colleges
The Roles that Community Colleges Play in Apprenticeship (
Northwest Florida State College Launches Apprenticeship Program (Blog)

You may also enjoy previous FCAN webinars supported by CareerSource Florida:

Closing the Opportunity Divide: Holistically Building Career Readiness in Young Adults
Future Ready: Aligning Industry and Higher Education So Students Earn Credentials Toward In-Demand Jobs

Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.

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