President Trump visits Hillsborough County school to promote career training
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In Hillsborough County last year, 60,000 students enrolled in at least one career-training course. Add that to Tampa Bay Technical High School’s 98 percent graduation rate and 627 industry certifications in the 2017-18 school year, and it makes sense that President Donald Trump stopped at the Hillsborough County school on Tuesday, July 31 to sign the first major education policy bill of his presidency.
“We’re here today to discuss an issue I feel very strongly about: vocational education,” Trump told the invited guests gathered in the school’s auditorium. “Whether you’re a high school student or late-career worker, there has never been a better time to learn a trade, hone a skill or pursue your dreams. There’s never been a better time.”
President Trump officially signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act in Washington D.C. that morning, but produced a copy of the bill while at the high school to provide a keepsake for Tampa Bay Tech and Principal Michael Ippolito.
The bill is a reauthorization to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which was last reauthroized by Congress in 2006. It allows states to set their own goals for career and technical education programs without the secretary of education’s approval. This is an opportunity for schools like Tampa Bay Tech to receive additional grant money.
“We’re growing here in Tampa,” said Superintendent Jeff Eakins. “We’re going to have a lot of building occur with a lot of trades, plumbing, welding … all that is going to be needed and if we don’t have our kids coming out of high school ready to go into those jobs then we’re not going to be able to grow.”
Along with President Trump and Superintendent Eakins, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, spoke at the event. A Tampa Bay Tech student and recent graduate also discussed how the school provides opportunities.
“You can have a trade and be successful,” said 2014 graduate David Thompson, who is now a pipe welder. “I make over six figures a year and I love what I do.”
Senior Isabella Cruz, a student in the architecture program, joked to the president that she too was a president – of the school’s Architecture Club.
Trump announced that earlier that day that 49 Florida businesses had signed a pledge to create apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs that will benefit more than 155,000 Floridians.
There were some protesters outside the school, but the principal called the visit a significant opportunity for Tampa Bay Technical.
“It’s surreal. You wouldn’t think that was really happening, to have the U.S. president recognize you as the principal of your school like that,” Ippolito said. “It’s really surreal.”
After the event, Trump held a campaign-style rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
This event was covered by Macy McClintock of Robinson High School and Makayla Brown of Hillsborough High School.