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Escambia County School District receives big grant to strengthen area workforce

Escambia County School District receives big grant to strengthen area workforce

The group overseeing the distribution of $1.5 billion from the BP oil spill fines announced its first grant approvals on Friday.

They announced a total of $19 million for a number of Gulf Coast projects. The Escambia County School District is getting a big chunk.

The Triumph Gulf Coast's board of directors signed off on a $3 million proposal to go toward career-technical education.

"Michelle Taylor is the director of workforce education and she did a marvelous job of working through all the bureaucracies and nuances of preparing an application," Superintendent Malcolm Thomas said.

That application includes expansion into aviation maintenance at Washington High School and George Stone Technical School. There will also be expansion of manufacturing automation and production at Pensacola and Northview High schools.

The proposal includes cybersecurity courses at two more high schools. Right now it is only offered at Pine Forest High School.

"It'll take a couple years to build it all out, but you'll see the beginnings of it very soon," Thomas said.

The district worked with area colleges on the grant. Dr. Deborah Douma with Pensacola State College said they are getting part of the grant to begin a commercial truck driving program. Douma said there are not many options in the area for people to get their CDL license.

"There's a big need," Douma said. "I'm sure every semi you see on the road it says, 'call us' or 'are you interested?' They're trying to hire drivers."

The Triumph Project in Escambia County is projected to result in over a thousand high school and college students obtaining industry certifications by 2024. Thomas said the hope is to keep the talent here.

"If they dream in those areas we just discussed, those are areas that our region is really focused on attracting businesses," Thomas said.

The terms of the grant still have to be negotiated, which will include performance requirements and provisions. The funds can be withdrawn if the projects do not produce promised results.

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