CHIPLEY -- As the campus continues to grow into its college label, the area's only institution for higher education is attracting droves of students from outside of the county.

According to Florida Panhandle Technical College Director Martha Compton, about 30-percent of the college's students are from other counties. While many are from neighboring counties, the campus has students from as far as Seminole County, near Orlando, and about 20 from out-of-state.

"They're coming for specific training," Compton said. "I think they come here for opportunity that they can't get in their own counties."

Most popular programs include practical nursing, correctional officer and cosmetology.

FPTC works hard to accommodate the skill sets needed for the area and is willing to specially train its students to develop skills for particular industries that may arise in the area, Compton noted.

For example, FPTC is one of a handful of institutions that offer the commercial driver licensure program (CDL).

"We're only one of three or four in the state of Florida because it's very expensive to run, and you don't always break even with a program like that, but we continue to offer it because it's a service for our community," Compton said.

The campus boasts a 94 percent job placement rate, which speaks to the success of the programs. But, compared with previous years, enrollment numbers are down and graduates usually find jobs outside of the county.

Compton points to the lack of jobs opportunities and salary competitiveness in the local area.

"In a small rural community where there is no increase in jobs, the job training is going to be down," Compton said. "So, we've got to be able to get jobs in our area."

She said the shipbuilding contracts going forward in Bay County and manufacturing companies that are eyeing Holmes and Jackson counties help to anchor FPTC as the institution of choice for students across the region.

"We're not just serving Washington and Holmes counties," Compton said, later adding, "This is what we do for our whole panhandle community not just cities and towns in our panhandle community."