Many career and technical education options in Gainesville

A chef-instructor and student cooking at Eastside High School's Institute of Culinary Arts magnet.

Back in my day, vocational education, or trade school, started with high school home economics (for girls) and shop class (for boys), then progressed into training for work in secretarial, auto repair, carpentry and plumbing, among others.

For those not heading to a four-year college, these were all viewed as great jobs. But somewhere along the way, these classes disappeared and a greater distinction between jobs and careers took hold — jobs were just jobs and careers required traditional, four-year college.  

How things have changed, especially here in Alachua County . Our K-12 schools, our nationally recognized Santa Fe College and our industry professionals are laser-focused on providing the curriculums and tools our students need to enter great careers in fields as diverse as robotics, culinary, veterinary, agriculture, gaming, biotechnology, finance, entrepreneurship, early childhood education and many more.

Known collectively as career and technical education (CTE), these programs provide a wealth of opportunity for students and many pathways to careers that do not require a four-year degree, starting in elementary school and progressing through middle school, high school and college.   

A student in the firefighter academy at the Professional Academies Magnet at Loften High School puts on his gear.

Today, middle and high school students in our Alachua County Public Schools, in partnership with Santa Fe College, can choose from 130 workforce/CTE courses covering 45 industry certifications, with 15 career magnets housed within our seven high schools. About 6,000 students are taking a CTE course or enrolled in a CTE program, and last school year, 1,600 students earned industry certifications. Additionally, the dual enrollment program at Santa Fe allows our high school students to work toward their diplomas while earning tuition-free college credits.  

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