Story and photos by STACY MARTIN
Northwest Florida State College (NWFSC) is taking steps to address education and the workforce in Walton County. This year, the college announced that they would terminate the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program, which offered GED-ready classes, the GED testing, and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs at the Walton county campuses. However, recently, NWFSC is moving forward to bring those programs back at three locations, the Chautauqua Center campus located in DeFuniak Springs, the Fort Walton Beach and Crestview satellite campuses. NWFSC is also looking into future programs to allow students to earn their GED while taking entry-level courses.
Focusing on workforce training and classes is The Walton Works Training Center of Excellence. The program’s building is currently under construction next door to the Chautauqua Center campus and will house the Walton Works program classes, many of which are already in progress. Jared Taylor, Construction Trades Program Manager, talks about the Walton Works programs and the potential for upcoming partnerships and apprenticeships. The programs include state-certified and public safety certificates with law enforcement, fire and rescue, and emergency medical technician (EMT) programs. This program is a partnership with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) and is currently constructing a fire tower at the WCSO to be a part of the training program. Other programs hosted at the center are cybersecurity, drone technology, and building trades that focus on plumbing, electrical, welding, and general construction.
The college’s construction trades are currently exploring opportunities to provide a Construction Specialist certificate, a one-year, 18 credit hour program. Students’ final exam will be their residential contractor exam and it can guarantee students to earn up to $25 per hour in the workforce. The college also looks to partner with local businesses to provide one-to-two day training workshops for homeowners that will cover general home maintenance repair projects such as drywall patching, landscaping, and painting. Other programing specialties that will soon startup with the college are additional apprenticeship opportunities for youth ages 16 to 24. Students will have a chance to participate in the apprenticeship programming through the carpentry and plumbing, HVAC, Paramedic, and Culinary Arts. The college looks to focus on HVAC and Paramedic programming first with an opportunity for the paramedic apprenticeship in DeFuniak Springs.
Part of exploring potential programs unique to the Walton County area is an interest in agricultural programming. The college is exploring Best Management Practices with topics such as no-till-farming, below ground watering technologies, and energy technologies to be a part of the Chautauqua Center’s 90-acre campus. In partnership with Lunsford Environmental, the college will host the Florida Muddy Water Blues vendor trade show and conference. The vendors will showcase Best Management Practices (BMP) on products and technology surrounding stormwater erosion, clean water, and sediment control topics that can be implemented in anyone’s front yard or farm. The event will take place at the Chautauqua Center campus in DeFuniak Springs on Oct. 29, starting at 9 a.m. It is free to the public and will have food and door prize raffles.