GOP’s Put­nam calls for more vo­ca­tional train­ing

Orlando Sentinel - - BUSINESS - By Steven Le­mon­gello Staff Writer

GOP can­di­date for gov­er­nor Adam Put­nam pushed for in­creased vo­ca­tional and tech­ni­cal train­ing in schools on a visit to an au­to­mo­tive tech­nol­ogy plant out­side Or­lando on Wed­nes­day.

“We all know there are a lot of ways to ac­com­plish the Amer­i­can dream,” said Put­nam, the state agri­cul­ture com­mis­sioner. “There are a lot of ways to ob­tain a great­pay­ing job and a good ca­reer that don’t re­quire stu­dent loan debt and a four-year univer­sity. And it’s OK to say that.”

He took a tour of Voxx Au­to­mo­tive, near Lake Nona, which de­vel­ops and man­u­fac­tures auto tech­nol­ogy such as the Evo sys­tem, a Wi-Fi and Blue­tooth-in­te­grated screen in­stalled on the backs of car seats.

“We don’t tend to think of Florida as be­ing an au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing state,” Put­nam said. “And we don’t nec­es­sar­ily tend to think of Florida as an elec­tron­ics man­u­fac­tur­ing state. And yet, right here, we’re putting those two in­dus­tries to­gether.

“It is ex­cit­ing to see how many jobs are sur­round­ing that mar­riage of elec­tron­ics and OEM [orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer],” he added. “And any­body who’s a par­ent knows how im­por­tant it is to have that screen in the back of the front seat to keep the kids happy. And that’s all go­ing on right here in Cen­tral Florida.”

Put­nam said his “Florida Jobs First Agenda” would in­clude restor­ing vo­ca­tional tech­ni­cal train­ing to mid­dle schools and high schools.

“I will mod­ern­ize ca­reer train­ing,” he said. “This is not your dad’s shop class. This is elec­tron­ics. This is cod­ing. This is health care. It’s ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing. It’s the eyes, it’s the qual­ity con­trol. It’s all of the things that are go­ing on right here in this in­dus­try and in open, avail­able jobs all over Florida.”

Put­nam called the cur­rent treat­ment of tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion “sec­ond class,” not­ing that no state Teacher of the Year has come from that field.

He added that calling for more jobs and train­ing that don’t re­quire de­grees “is not a war in uni­ver­si­ties. This is not pit­ting vo­ca­tional train­ing against state col­leges. We need both.”

In re­sponse, Florida Demo­cratic Party spokesman Kevin Dono­hoe said Put­nam “has an abysmal record on vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion.”

“In Congress, Put­nam spent years vot­ing against job train­ing grants and STEM ed­u­ca­tion,” Dono­hoe said. “Put­nam’s so­called plan to im­prove vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion is just a cyn­i­cal po­lit­i­cal stunt de­signed to hide his long record of op­pos­ing ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for Florida stu­dents and work­ers.”

Voxx Au­to­mo­tive pres­i­dent Ed­ward Mas said he agreed with Put­nam that “every­body is not geared for col­lege. I was one of those be­fore I fig­ured out what to do.”

Mas, who spent the first 10 years of his ca­reer as a welder be­fore de­cid­ing to get into man­age­ment, said “a lot of peo­ple start at the bot­tom and work their way up. You see that here. It’s not just a fac­tory and ship­ping, you can re­ally make a ca­reer here.”

He also said a re­turn of man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs doesn’t just mean jobs for fac­tory work­ers but also en­gi­neers and those in other fields.

Put­nam faces U.S. Rep. Ron DeSan­tis, R-Palm Coast, in the Aug. 28 Re­pub­li­can pri­mary. For­mer U.S. Rep. Gwen Gra­ham, Tal­la­has­see Mayor Andrew Gil­lum, Win­ter Park busi­ness­man Chris King and for­mer Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are run­ning in the Demo­cratic pri­mary.

STEVEN LE­MON­GELLO/STAFF

Voxx Au­to­mo­tive pres­i­dent Ed­ward Mas gives Florida Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sioner Adam Put­nam a tour of the fa­cil­ity near Lake Nona on Thurs­day.

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