Valencia College Joins School Districts to Offer Education Apprenticeships, Path to Teaching Degree

Orlando, FL – Today, officials from Valencia College and Orange and Osceola county schools unveiled the details of a new apprenticeship program for college students who want to become teachers. Announced at the college’s West Campus, the new apprenticeships will allow students to work in schools as classroom paraprofessionals while earning their bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Valencia College.

The program is set to start in 2025 – though students who have earned an Associate in Arts degree can begin working as paraprofessionals in fall 2024. They’ll begin earning credit for their work experience starting in 2025, officials said.

“As Central Florida continues to grow, the need for teachers will also become more pressing. That’s why it’s critical for us as a community to come up with solutions to the teacher shortage,” said Dr. Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia College. “We think this is an inventive solution that will be a good fit for many of our students.”

The apprenticeship program will enable students to work full-time while studying for their teaching degrees – all while gaining valuable classroom experience. That combination may be a powerful incentive, Plinske said.

Under the program, which the State Board of Education approved in March, students will earn credit for learning and working under the mentorship of an experienced classroom teacher. In addition to the credit they’ll receive for that experience, they will also take online classes to fulfill the rest of their degree requirements.

Valencia College officials said that students in the apprenticeship program will be able to complete their bachelor’s degree for less than $10,000 — which includes the cost of an AA and the new bachelor’s degree program combined.

For the school districts, the joint announcement comes at a critical time. Both school districts are impacted by a statewide teacher shortage.

“I am excited about the potential this partnership has to address the teacher shortage here in Orange County that is being felt across the country. We believe this program can create a strong “grow your own” teacher program by leveraging our robust dual enrollment partnership with Valencia,” said Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Vazquez. “This will be a unique opportunity to provide a clear path for our juniors and seniors who want to be classroom teachers and stay within OCPS.”

In Osceola County, where school district officials have traveled as far as Puerto Rico to recruit teachers, administrators applauded the new apprenticeship program.

“As we recognize the invaluable role teachers play in shaping the future of our students and communities, a critical priority for the Osceola County School Board is the recruitment and retention of highly qualified educators,” said Osceola School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Shanoff. “Colleges of education across the nation are not producing enough educators to meet the growing demand in schools, exacerbating the teacher shortage crisis in many regions, including Central Florida. We are proud to partner with Valencia College to implement innovative strategies to attract, train, and retain talented educators who are passionate about fostering student success in Osceola County.”

Together, Orange and Osceola schools need about 500 new elementary teachers a year. Valencia College officials estimate that this program could produce 180 new teachers by 2028. To attract students to the new program, the districts and Valencia College also announced an upcoming open house on July 9th, during which students will learn more about the new bachelor’s degree and the apprenticeship program.