NEXTworks is the CEP's talent development initiative. Underwritten by a generous local corporate partner, this initiative seeks to partner the business community with our education providers. The goal is to develop and align training programs around skills needed by businesses in the Ocala Metro and that align with higher education providers such as the College of Central Florida (CF), Marion Technical College (MTC), local governments, the CEP, and CareerSource CLM. The CEP works closely with Marion County Public Schools, CF, and MTC on these initiatives with the recognition that while not every student needs to go to university, every student needs skills and career pathways that allow them to add skills throughout their lifetime.

The CEP has worked closely with Marion County Public Schools to engage the business community with creation of Career Choice Academies at each local high school. The seven academies provide a career pathway for students starting as freshmen and align with programs at both the College of Central Florida and Marion Technical College. Additionally, each program represents a high-demand career in the Ocala Metro.


Belleview High School Robotics Academy, 2018

Dunnellon High School Power Generation Academy, 2019

Forest High School Entrepreneurship Academy, 2019

Lake Weir High School School Global Logistics Academy, 2017

North Marion High School IT/Gaming Academy, 2018

Vanguard High School Future Educators Academy, 2018

West Port High School Global Logistics Academy, 2017

The CEP brought 40 local businesses to partner with Marion Technical College, CareerSource CLM, and the College of Central Florida to create a new CDL program to meet the growing demands of local businesses. The businesses provided valuable input as to what they needed in new CDL drivers and then donated semis, trailers, equipment, and parts to assist with the creation of the new program. CEP helped to secure additional funds in partnership with United Way of Marion County to finish the driving pad. Using grant funds from CareerSource CLM, many of the students are able to go through the program at little or no cost. To learn more about the program, please click here.

The CEP works to support and assist our educators to help them deliver relevancy to their classrooms. Among the many ways the CEP supports educators include the following:

  • helped to place 32 CTE instructors in industry-specific summer externships in 2018 and more than 40 in 2019. This was quadruple the number in 2017. Additionally, each of the participants then shared their plans with the other 200 CTE teachers, extending the learning;
  • sponsored incentive bonuses of $500 each to the first three CTE instructors who completed their LEAD certifications, a detailed assessment that includes integrated soft skills assessment and meaningful relationships with the business community;

  • provided a $500 classroom grant to the 2019 Marion County Teacher of the Year, Hollie Cunningham. Ms. Cunningham is a Health Occupations teacher at West Port High School;

  • provided meals and speakers for teacher in-service, principal meetings, and counselor meetings.

NEXTworking is a series of networking events for Career & Technical Education students to network with industry leaders in their respective fields. Nearly a dozen NEXTworking events are held throughout the year for each of the CTE programs.


The CEP surveyed area businesses for the most in-demand skills employers wanted. Out of this came a list of soft skills and a commitment by the school system to implement a multi-faceted soft skills curriculum in K-12. This effort affects every student in every classroom and is year-round. We are now initiating discussions with the College of Central Florida to integrate soft skills into their student/faculty interactions as well.

The CEP partners with CareerSource CLM to host the Youth Career Expo sponsored by the College of Central Florida. The 2-day event provides middle and high school students with an opportunity to learn about careers in our community, the skills needed to be successful in those careers, and how to gain those skills. Additionally, students have an opportunity to learn about soft skills and have a chance for “speed networking” with local business leaders.