As science-based and technical industries continue to grow the Gainesville region’s economy, higher education institutions are able to quickly respond to workforce needs with a deep pool of technologically skilled talent.
Santa Fe College offers more than 50 technology and applied science programs. Its Perry Center for Emerging Technologies, which offers academic programs in biomedical engineering, clinical laboratory science and industrial biotechnology, is a key asset, providing trained employees for the growing roster of life science and biotech companies in the region.
Strength in Numbers
"We have a lot of high-tech companies in this area, from information technology to advanced manufacturing. North Florida is also a health care hub, with three major hospitals right here in town, and we also have several spinoff industries, such as diagnostics, pharmaceuticals and medical device manufacturing,” says John McNeely, associate vice president for Career and Technical Education at Santa Fe College.
A growing biotechnology hub up in Alachua is spawning new and advanced processes and increasing demand for a skilled workforce with a strength in science and biology, McNeely says. Santa Fe College has responded with programs such as a biotechnology for research associate’s degree and an industrial biotechnology program.
“We’ve paid very close attention to these [in] demand occupations, and we’re working to educate the talent pipeline for current and expanding employers in the area as well as assist with attracting new employers in these industries,” he says.
In total, Santa Fe serves more than 19,000 students and offers associate and baccalaureate degrees in more than 100 academic programs. Students are able to pursue degrees full- or part-time through daytime, evening and even Saturday classes as well as through online study.
“We're training people for jobs that will allow them to sustain a family. If you can get a job off the street with no education, we're not in that business,” McNeely says.
Santa Fe also works with the University of Florida to provide a seamless academic path toward a four-year degree. The University of Florida enrolls more than 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students and offers more than 300 academic programs. One of the country’s leading research institutions, the university boasts some 200 research, service and education centers, bureaus and institutes. UF also claims the top-ranked online MBA program in the state, as well as the 13th leading online bachelor’s degree program in the nation.
“Our students can transfer to UF or any of the state universities with advanced standing, and complete their studies there,” McNeely says.
Santa Fe also partners with organizations, such as CareerSource North Central Florida to help connect students to jobs. CareerSource North Central Florida, a workforce development organization, works with businesses to assess their workforce needs.
“We provide the resources, career counseling and direction to help ensure that they're ready and able to compete as self-sufficient, trained individuals, ready to go into some of these high-demand occupations,” says Frank Avery, interim executive director and director of external affairs for CareerSource North Central Florida.
“Santa Fe College is one of our closest allies in the community. We have some of the best alignments in terms of the referral sources for one another to ensure that individuals in the community are getting access to different types of training,” Avery says. “Santa Fe College does a great job of giving us an idea of what exists as curriculum in the community and then we're able to, likewise, provide them guidance on what the business community is looking for in training.”