This profile is part of a series celebrating Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month at St. Petersburg College. Be sure to check out the full story to read more about the experiences of SPC students. To explore all of our degrees and credentials, visit spcollege.edu/degrees.
Danielle Damico, 39, was a single mom of three, making ends meet by bartending and serving in Downtown St. Pete. The restaurant was right across the street from St. Petersburg College’s Downtown Center, and she walked by it often. Damico says she often felt like the black sheep of her family because she hadn’t gone to college.
“I faced some personal struggles in high school, and then life happened,” she said.
Children came; years passed. Damico took some classes in 2018, but juggling work and parenting made it seem impossible. When COVID hit and she lost her job, she decided it was time, and she enrolled at St. Petersburg College in Fall 2020. By the end of her second semester, she will have earned her Google IT Support Professional certificate, as well as a Comp TIA A+ certification, both of which were paid for with scholarships.
“These certifications will help me get a job – as early as this summer,” she said.
February is Career and Technical Education (CTE) Month, which celebrates the importance of CTE programs, not only to Damico, but also to so many others like her all across the nation.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment has skyrocketed in America. In Florida, where the economy relies heavily on the tourism industry, unemployment is widespread. As of December 2020, there were more than 614,000 people without jobs. Programs like those at SPC offer short-term training that can take people who are unemployed or underemployed and quickly train them for high-paying careers in fields where there is a real need for trained workers, such as computer programming, cybersecurity, information technology, health sciences, advanced manufacturing and more.
In order to make earning new credentials more accessible, SPC partnered with the State of Florida. To make short-term programs easier to find, the college partnered with Get There Florida, an initiative that raises awareness of short-term training programs. The college also aimed to make short-term programs more affordable. A $2.2 million grant from the Florida Department of Education’s Rapid Credentialing Economic Recovery and Prosperity Initiative allowed SPC to offer the Rapid Credentialing Scholarship to employees or at risk of losing their jobs due to COVID-19.
“Our region has felt the unprecedented impact COVID-19 has had on the global workforce,” SPC’s Dean of Workforce Development Michael Ramsey said. “SPC’s programs help impacted community members to quickly get the skills they need to get back to work and back on their feet.”
SPC has more than 30 Associate in Science degrees and over 60 certificates, some that can be completed in as little as 10 weeks. In 2019-20, the college awarded more than 740 workforce certifications and is already showing an upward trend. Director of Workforce Education Jason Boys said SPC’s enrollment in Workforce Education Industry Certification programs is growing, as is the college’s selection of programs.
“We’ve had over 1100 students enrolled so far this academic year, and are adding more every day,” Boys said. “We also have several exciting new programs like Electrical Line Worker, Solar Power Associate, Patient Care Technician, Google IT Associate and Entrepreneurship Essentials.”
Damico plans to graduate in Spring 2022, then keep working towards a Bachelor in Applied Science in Technology Development and Management at SPC. Her advice for anyone considering going back? Just do it.
“Don’t even think about it – do it,” she said. “Until you do, you’ll be stuck in that loop of should haves.”