Valencia, Orange County Schools Partner to Create ‘Tech Express’

Valencia College and Orange County Public Schools today announced a unique agreement in Florida that will provide a new college-and-career opportunity called “Tech Express.”

Through this new program, Orange County students will have seamless and accelerated access to post-secondary and college credit career training programs, as well as Associate in Science (A.S.) and bachelor’s degree programs.

By joining forces, Valencia and OCPS will expand, align and connect the workforce-related programs they offer. This partnership will identify barriers to student access and create solutions that will help build the most integrated education ecosystem in the country, including:

  • Career and technical courses offered early in high school that could lead to immediate employment after graduation and eligibility for college credits at Valencia College.
  • Aligned student learning outcomes, program outcomes and assessments that maximize the award of college credits and credit transfers (as currently offered in the Laser Photonics magnet program at Wekiva High School and Digital Media magnet program at Evans High School).
News crews interview Valencia president Dr. Sandy Shugart after the announcement.
News crews interview Valencia president Dr. Sandy Shugart after the announcement.

“Across the nation, we are witnessing the growing need for a new type of worker — skilled workers whose jobs may not require a bachelor’s degree, but require more technical education beyond a high-school diploma,” said Dr. Sandy Shugart, president of Valencia College, who called Tech Express “the beginning of a bold strategy to accelerate more high-school students into technical careers and degrees.”

“In Central Florida’s diverse economy, we need not just doctors and lawyers, but engineering technicians and computer programmers, nurses and cyber-security specialists, construction managers and digital media specialists,” Shugart added. “We need smart, highly-trained people to run today’s smart buildings and a legion of skilled health-care workers to staff our hospitals.”

Through Tech Express, Valencia College and Orange County Public Schools will explore expanding Collegiate Academies in high schools, explore offering Valencia A.S. degree programs at Orange Technical College campuses, hold regular workforce summits with industry leaders, reduce the cost of education and work together to create scholarships for students in the Tech Express program.

Tech Express provides an avenue for students who don’t want to pursue a traditional bachelor’s degree, said Bill Sublette, chairman of the Orange County school board. “College and a traditional bachelor’s degree is not the path for every child,” Sublette said. “This allows us to deliver these high-paying jobs to students who decide they do not want to pursue a traditional bachelor’s degree.”

In addition, Sublette noted the growing opportunities for dual-enrollment students — who can earn college credits while in high school. “We’ve had a thriving dual enrollment relationship with Valencia College for years and this will expand that program,” Sublette said.

With employers’ growing need for technical and computer skills, graduates of this program will be on the fast track to good jobs, he said.

“We are already seeing a shift in the workforce — one that rewards technical knowledge and skills,” said Lew Oliver, chairman of Valencia College’s Board of Trustees. “This new partnership can equip Central Florida students with the training needed to qualify for good-paying jobs in under two years. And along the way, they will be eligible for college credits and degrees at Valencia — credentials that are needed for career advancement. For students and taxpayers, this is a win-win.”

Before the announcement, the Orange County School Board unanimously approved renaming OCPS Technical Education Centers to Orange Technical College. Orange Technical College has five campuses at Avalon, Mid Florida, Orlando, Westside and Winter Park.