Gov. DeSantis Announces State Grant to Build Financial Tech Workforce in Northeast Florida

Feb 12, 2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced a $3.6 million grant-funded initiative to increase the size of the financial technology workforce in Northeast Florida.

Financial technology is a growing job field that includes building apps, machine learning and cloud-based data management. Jobs in the category include blockchain and app developers, financial analysts and product managers.

At Florida State College at Jacksonville’s downtown campus, DeSantis announced the new financial technology certificate program and collaboration with primary schools. FSCJ will be spearheading the program in partnership with St. Johns River State College.

“One of the things that I think is most important is ensuring that we have a really strong workforce that can serve the needs of these companies in this industry,” DeSantis said.

The governor pointed out that top technology companies already choose Northeast Florida. FIS, SoFi, and SS&C Technologies all have operations in Jacksonville. 

“I think that this will provide us, you know, with a framework to be able to be responsive to a very dynamic sector of the economy,” DeSantis said.  “You're going to continue to have evolving needs in this.”

Technology companies will be a part of the initiative, offering input on what kinds of workers they need. 

Wendy Norfleet, CEO of Norfleet Integrated Solutions and President of the JAX Chamber’s IT Council, said, “Now I have more potential training opportunities for me and my contractors.”

Officials said the programs will be primarily geared toward college students interested in the field, with outreach programs for students interested at a younger age.

FSCJ and St. Johns River State College plan to create the certificate program over the next five years.

Jennifer Peterson with FSCJ said year one will entail developing the financial technology curriculum, hiring staff and ordering equipment for labs. The next four years will involve implementing “boot camps academies” in high schools and technical certificate programs at the two state colleges.

The initiative also includes regional forums where industry and education partners can network. 

“The potential here is huge,” Peterson said. “We’ve met with roundtables of business partners that have said that this is something that they would love to have, employees skilled in, to be hired.”

Norfleet said, “With the academies in high school, we can actually prepare them, especially with dual enrollment here, where they can graduate with their associate’s degree a week before they graduate.”

In September, DeSantis announced the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund and other initiatives to encourage financial technology companies to expand or relocate to Florida. The $3.6 million for the Northeast Florida FinTech Initiative will come from that fund.

“If you're moving jobs from San Francisco to Jacksonville, or New York to Jacksonville, I mean, if you're even making close to what you're making there, that money goes so much farther here because the taxes are lower,” DeSantis said. 

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.