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Nearly $2 million going to Chipola College to grow our local workforce

Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 6:05 PM CDT
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MARIANNA, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It’s been more than two years since category five Hurricane Michael hit the panhandle, and so many are still trying to get back on their feet.

“When you would talk with people, they’d say I’m number 315 on a list with a roofing contractor. I mean that’s incredible to have to be 300, number 315. You’re waiting two years later and you don’t have the roof on your house,” Chipola College President Dr. Sarah Clemmons said.

Chipola College is working to fill that need by quickly training students to enter the workforce.

“This one year kind of gets me basically like three years of experience with how much we’re learning,” Chipola College construction student Gunnar Nebel said.

On Wednesday, school leaders announced $1.7 million in government funding is going towards growing its welding and building construction programs. The money is part of the Rebuild Florida Workforce Recovery Training Program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Not only will the money allow the school to hire another professor, but also to buy some extra equipment for students to train with. First-year welding student Chelsea Schwendeman said the extra money is a game-changer.

“We could really just use it. You know there’s a lot of stuff that, there’s a lot of equipment. Equipment is so expensive and we can’t do certain things that we need to do if we don’t have this equipment which kind of defeats the purpose of being in the program,” Schwendeman said.

Being a helping hand for folks in need is what drives many of the students at Chipola College to join the workforce. But for some, it’s more than that. Chelsea said she gets her hands dirty every day so that her future family won’t have to.

“I wanted to create a stable foundation for my future. For my family, whoever I decide you know whatever I decide to have, I don’t want to have to make ends meet. I don’t want to have to live paycheck to paycheck,” Schwendeman said.

Chipola College officials said they’re trying to help meet the demand both in training and in serving the community.

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