PORT ST. JOE — Triumph Gulf Coast’s Board has agreed to support workforce and education projects in Walton, Gulf and Franklin counties totaling more than $13.2 million.

The board approved the Walton County Sheriff’s Office request for almost $2.2 million to expand pre- and post-release technical education and certification training programs at the Walton County Jail in partnership with Emerald Coast Technical College (ECTC), a part of the Walton County School District.

The money will be used to pave a driving pad for commercial driver's license training and certification, and expanded welding certifications and computer technology certification. The program is aimed to help people who are released from jail get jobs and reduce recividism. The results of this program will be studied by Florida State University.

The program will also allow sheriff's employees to take classes and earn certifications in computer technology.

Triumph’s participation is just under 50 percent of the $4.45 million project.

The Triumph board also voted to approve an agreement with Gulf County School District that will result in industry certifications in subject areas pertaining to unmanned aircraft systems. The $750,00 award represents 53.5 percent of total project cost over a 5-year period. The School District will provide $652,000 in instructors' salaries and benefits as matching funds.

A minimum of 200 students will obtain certifications in three areas.

Unmanned aircraft systems is a high demand and growing industry sector that is well-matched to the needs of the local economy.

In Franklin County, the Triumph Board voted to approve an education proposal from Franklin County School Board that will result in industry certifications in subject areas including medical fields, welding and computer technology. The award of almost $2.33 million represents 70.3 percent of total project cost over a 3 1/2-year period. The School Board will contribute $984,500.

It is expected that 800 CAPE certifications will be obtained by students in elementary middle and high school over the period. A curriculum will also be introduced in Franklin schools that focuses on attributes of the regional seafood industry.

The Triumph Board also moved forward a proposal from the Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory in St. Teresa for $7,998,678. The overarching objective of Apalachicola Bay System Initiative is to provide information and tools that will facilitate the recovery of the Apalachicola Bay ecosystem, which is critical to the economy of Franklin County.

ABSI will partner with residents as well as government, academic and non-governmental organization stakeholders. Research will be done to gain insight into the extent of deterioration of the reef system and the underlying causes of the observed decline resulting in a plan of action for recovery of the oyster reefs and the health of the Bay.

Recovery of oyster reefs will translate into positive economic outcomes for those whose livelihoods depend on a healthy Bay.