Tallahassee Community College’s goal of filling the need for more trained dental hygienists and surgical technicians in the region has gotten a $1.6 million boost from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The new money comes from DeSantis’ Job Growth Grant Fund, an economic development program designed to meet local healthcare demands through workforce training.
“This funding allows us to make sure doctors and dentists can rely on the fact that we’re going to be producing the amount of talent they’re going to need to provide the services that they have to offer,” TCC President Jim Murdaugh said Wednesday during a news conference on campus.
TCC’s dental hygiene program currently has 24 students, with an additional 50 to 60 candidates on the wait list. Students are admitted to the two-year program once a year and train at TCC’s Ghazvini Center for Healthcare Education.
TCC Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Calandra Stringer said a portion of the non-recurring funding will go toward purchasing equipment, hiring more instructors and admitting students twice a year, beginning in fall 2023.
“Our dental program has a huge impact because it’s in demand,” Stringer said. “A lot of offices need dental hygienists and dental assistants, and a lot of our students already have job offers before they even complete our program, so there are many job openings.”
The college’s surgical technology program has 14 students enrolled, and the grant includes improving the four-semester program by doubling the enrollment and adding high-end technology equipment for training on TCC’s main campus.
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TCC’s proposal for the grant stressed the opportunity that it will provide residents who are not only in Leon County, but also in Gadsden and Wakulla counties, said Murdaugh.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida Inc. reviewed the grant proposals before they were chosen by DeSantis based on how well they met demands for workforce training in Florida communities.
Senior Chancellor of the Florida Department of Education Henry Mack sees the award as a reaffirmation of TCC’s mission and efforts to help residents succeed.
“We know that there are certain ZIP codes that surround us that are faced with intergenerational poverty and barriers to mobility,” Mack said at the news conference. “TCC is the mechanism I would submit that helps individuals achieve greatness and economic prosperity.”
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