Northwest Florida students have the opportunity to pursue vocational and other certifications to better address workforce needs through programs offered by various schools.

In Santa Rosa County, a partnership between the school district and Santa Rosa Economic Development created Santa Rosa Career Pathways, a training program that serves as an alternative to higher education.

The mission of this program is to provide students with education relevant to their future goals as well as area demands, according to officials. Diverse, yet local, industries are represented in the program, ranging from aviation to healthcare.

Santa Rosa County Economic Development partnered with the school district to offer these programs in middle and high schools across the district and at Locklin Technical Center in Milton.

During the past school year students earned more than 2,000 industry certifications in these programs, according to Charlin Knight, the director of workforce education in Santa Rosa schools.

Career Pathways opened three new areas of instruction this school year, in addition to the dozens of training programs and certifications already available, to help address local workforce demand.

For instance, three district high schools — Jay, Milton and Central — have offered agriculture classes for several years, yet they have only recently been a part of this program.

“We’ve added (agriculture) to our Career Pathways website because, to me, energy is not as important in Northwest Florida as (agriculture) is, like in the rural north end,” Knight said.

According to a press release from the district, Jay High School opened a building construction curriculum to meet the increased demand in the construction trades. Gulf Breeze High School started a hospitality and tourism field of study to meet local workforce demand. A new business and entrepreneurship curriculum at Milton High School students will instruct students on starting their own business.

On the program’s website, SantaRosaCareerPathways.com, the types of featured industries are listed along with the corresponding academies, possible future job opportunities and their estimated pay.

“(The website is) for parents to understand the high-skill, high-wage, in-demand opportunities available for their child during and after high school,” Knight said. “It changes based on the demand of our area. We try to make sure we are offering academies that lead to … workforce opportunities.”

The district has 16 middle school academies, 48 high school academies and 20 technical college career preparatory programs.

Okaloosa County offers technical training to high school students and adults through the Okaloosa Technical College. There are 13 programs offered, ranging from cosmetology to welding. The college offers various financial aid options for students including scholarships, grants and VA benefits.

For more information on Okaloosa Technical College, visit www.otcollege.net.

Walton County also offers technical education for middle and high school students. There are 14 programs offered from administrative office specialist training to digital design.For information on Walton's Career and Technical Education, visit www.walton.k12.fl.us/career-and-technical-education.