Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Innovation: Broward College Strives for Better Workforce Recovery

Broward UP, "A mdel for the rest of the state," Florida Tax Watch
Columbia County Observer Graphic

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – As the nation recovers from the recession, Broward College, a community college in Broward County, is taking a different approach to making workforce training available to all.

"Broward UP," which stands for "Unlimited Potential," makes education accessible by "meeting students where they are" by holding free classes and workshops at satellite sites in six local ZIP Codes that have the highest unemployment and lowest educational attainment rates.

Link with graphic to Florida Tax Watch assessment of Broward UP
Read the Florida Tax Watch assessment.

Dr. Mildred Coyne, senior vice president for Broward College Workforce Education and Innovation, said they've made agreements with communities and agencies to use their facilities.

"Now we've created an intergenerational model, where children are seeing their parents in school while they're at their favorite Boys and Girls Club," Coyne explained. "And it's really just creating a continuous loop of understanding that education is for everyone, and it's a never-ending, generational loop."

Since 2018, more than 2,600 students have taken the free workshops; 95% are students of color, and most are over age 30. Almost 2,000 of them have gone on to pursue certifications in their career fields.

Isabel Gonzalez, chief of staff and vice president of Communications and Community Relations at Broward College, said a degree isn't always the end goal in this learning model.

She argued it's more important to get people ready for what employers will expect of them.

"There's just so much talk around dropping education credentials when you're hiring and those kinds of trends, but you still need to demonstrate those skills," Gonzalez contended.

Bridging the digital divide for students is another part of helping them compete for higher-wage jobs.

Coyne noted in Broward County that high-wage jobs are growing, while low- and middle-wage jobs decline. "Broward UP" is a way for students to increase their economic mobility.

"Just moving people up from the bottom, up one rung, isn't enough," Coyne asserted. "It's not a resilient enough wage. We saw that play itself out through the pandemic and the disproportionate impact that the pandemic and the economic downturn had on our communities of poverty."

She thinks the Broward College model could work at other schools by building strong community partnerships.

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