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New programs set to open at Big Bend Technical College, helping neighbors pivot careers following challenges

Posted at 3:44 PM, May 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-09 15:44:11-04
  • Following the closure of the Georgia Pacific Foley Cellulose Mill, the former largest employer in Perry, there's been a push to help local talent.
  • Big Bend Technical College has been working with many agencies and community members to expand the number of career pathways on offer.
  • Watch the video to find out about their new programs and how they're helping neighbors pivot careers.


Since the closure of the Georgia Pacific Foley Cellulose Mill, there's been an extra push to keep talent local in Taylor County. Speaking with the team at Big Bend Technical College to find out about the opportunities they're providing to help neighbors pivot in their careers. Creating steadfast paths to lucrative and fulfilling careers. That's the focus of Big Bend Technical College.

"I'm going to get a job that nobody can take away from me," said Leada Salder, a Patient Care Technician Student, explaining her decision to join the college.

Sadler had been working at the Georgia Pacific Foley Cellulose Mill for almost 10 years when the closure was announced.


Taylor County leaders hold special meeting to address closure of Georgia-Pacific's Foley Cellulose Mill

I asked her how it felt making that career shift: "scary, very scary, you know, I'm 50 years old," said Sadler.

She decided to enroll in the Patient Care Technician program here.

That's kickstarted a whole new working life.

"It's gonna benefit me but hopefully it's going to benefit a lot of people I know, hopefully it will benefit the whole town," said Sadler.

Big Bend Technical College offers 13 career pathways in 5 different industry clusters. All geared towards securing high skill, high wage jobs.

They're introducing many more programs to meet the needs of the community.

These include a new 911 telecommunications program, advance manufacturing facility, and firefighter and EMT school.

This is possible following support from various agencies including Governor DeSantis, Senator Simon, Representative Shoaf, Florida Commerce, and many more.

"We have to have our fingers on the pulse of what careers and employees our community needs so we meet with business and industry often," said Jodi Tillman, Director of Big Bend Technical College.

She said since the closure, they've been working with many agencies including Career Source North Florida, the community, County, City and more, to find ways to sustain and attract industry here.

"I hope that people can see how awesome Perry is," said Tillman, "and all the opportunities that Taylor County has to offer and that we can be part of matching their needs for their employment."

Another huge plus point for students? They can attend for free.

"These programs are allowing people from Perry to not be in a debt and that they can get all the background knowledge that they need and then go and find a job literally anywhere," said student Tyler Chaney.

Superintendent for Taylor County Schools, Alicia Beshears, said it's all about preparing students for the next industry shift.

"We don't really know where things are going, we just know we have to provide the training for the jobs that are coming," said Beshears.

She said it's an exciting time to grow and expand. Sadler says you can be a part of that at any time in your life.

"Realize that some of the dreams you may have had at 20 are very much attainable at whatever age you are," said Sadler.

Big Bend Technical College has a range of programs available from welding to massage therapy and GED preparation. All of their information can be find online or the team recommend dropping by to talk about your career goals at 3233 South Byron Butler Parkway, Perry, Florida, 32348.