By Joshua Manning
The Wellington Village Council heard a presentation from Palm Beach State College President Ava Parker on Tuesday, Oct. 12.
Parker, a resident of Wellington with children attending local schools, discussed ways that the college and the village can partner on programs.
“My goal is to talk about ways that we can strengthen our partnership and be a resource for the village and its residents,” she said.
Palm Beach State College was the first public community college in Florida, established in 1933. It currently has five campuses offering associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, as well as certificate programs. About 50 percent of all local high school graduates attend PBSC, and the college brings an estimated $1.1 billion in annual economic impact.
Recently, the college used $131 million in federal funds to upgrade technology and make other improvements. Many classes are now offered both in person and online.
“Our goal is to find out how is it that we can help you prepare folks who come in to take advantage of the opportunities available here in the Wellington community,” Parker said.
Among the current initiatives at PBSC are the 24 rapid credentialling programs available for people interested in career changes. This has been a focus for people whose lives were upended due to the pandemic.
“It really provides or prepares our students for high demand and high wage opportunities,” Parker explained, adding that the programs are designed for “stackable credentials” where students start with the rapid credentialling program, then earn a degree at a later date.
Local programs include internship opportunities, such as with Palm Beach County’s water utility department. She suggested that this is something that PBSC can work with Wellington on as well. “This will help to find good, skilled workers to fill demand,” Parker said.
She requested that Wellington support PBSC in its plans to build a new dental and health sciences building on the nearby Loxahatchee Groves campus. A funding request is currently pending before the Florida Legislature.
“You would like to have us pass a resolution and add it to our lobbying list to help you bring this idea to reality?” Vice Mayor John McGovern asked.
Parker said that would be helpful in bringing the new Center for Medical and Dental Technology to fruition.
“This is a one-time funding request of the last $25 million needed to complete the project,” she said.
Council members were supportive of anything that the village can do to advance the PBSC mission.
“Palm Beach State College inspires everyone out there who wants to pursue academic growth,” Councilman Michael Drahos said. “Our doors are wide open and available to anyone who wants it. You have a partner here in Wellington.”
Councilman Michael Napoleone agreed. “There is so much available at your school, and more people need to know about it,” he said.
Councilwoman Tanya Siskind said that Wellington should look for all the different ways it can partner with the college. “We have enjoyed a great partnership with you,” she said. “The workforce has changed so much since COVID-19, and we definitely need to have these types of programs in place.”
McGovern also supported working with PBSC to help train and offer growth opportunities for Wellington staff members. “This will help put Wellington ahead of the curve,” he said.
Parker thanked the village for its ongoing support.
“We think that every day we inspire hope, we advance skills and we transform lives,” she said. “That is our commitment to our community.”