A booming economy has led to an explosion of new businesses throughout Marion County in recent years. And soon more motels, hotels, restaurants and a mammoth equestrian center will open.

The College of Central Florida announced on Monday that it has received an $80,000 state grant to launch a hospitality management apprenticeship program to help train residents in a three-county area for hospitality opportunities.

College officials say the grant will be vital in training Marion, Citrus and Levy residents as the needs grow.

To put the need in perspective, the World Equestrian Center will have a soft opening for its first event in October. The large complex will employ at least 300 people, many for its many restaurants and other venues.

The grant is part of the Pathways to Career Opportunities program launched in January via an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis issued a directive to Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran to secure $10 million, which was approved by the Legislature in the spring, for the Pathways to Career Opportunities Grant.

The Pathways grants is aimed at high schools, school district career centers, charter technical career centers, Florida College System institutions, and other entities authorized to sponsor an apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship programs.

The news comes soon after Marion Technical College received an $186,276 state grant to develop carpentry apprenticeship programs to meet the area’s construction needs.

The grant will allow Marion Technical College, which is operated by Marion County Public Schools, to partner with the Marion County Building Industry Association to train needed carpenters.

CF will partner with Hotel Development and Management Group LLC, known as HDG Hotels. The partnership also will include CareerSource CLM (Citrus, Levy and Marion), and the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

The apprenticeship program will allow participants to earn a college credit certificate and an industry certification as a certified hospitality supervisor.

“Access to education and training has a tremendous capacity to positively impact individual lives as well as the businesses and communities in which such access is available,” Lisa Lombardo, chief people and culture officer for HDG Hotels, said in a news release. “We are proud to be growing our partnerships with CF and the American Hotel and Lodging Association in ways that will once again offer our team members opportunities to grow with us.”

Apprentices who complete the program will receive at least 15 college credits toward an associate’s degree in science. Initially, many of the apprentices participating in the program will be current HDG Hotels employees. The program will eventually be open to other organizations within the hotel industry. The program is expected to begin in the fall semester 2020.

— Contact Joe Callahan at 867-4113 or at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews.


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