Reprinted with permission of the Blue & White, the college faculty and staff newsletter
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced $500 million worth of grants impacting almost 300 community colleges nationwide Wednesday from the Clearwater Campus, including a grant of $15 million to a consortium headed by St. Petersburg College.
The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grants allow community colleges and employers to work together to build a skilled workforce in fields such as advanced manufacturing, transportation and health care, as well as science, technology, engineering and math occupations.
The grant proposed by SPC and its partners will build a statewide training system for advanced manufacturing jobs in high demand, such as specialized welders, machinists and technicians.
The training will focus on Florida workers who lost their jobs or are at risk of losing their jobs as a result of foreign trade, as well as veterans returning from service and workers in need of skills upgrades to remain in the workforce.
“This grant will put all the key players on the same team, working for a common goal,” Solis said. “People will go back to school if they know it is affordable and they know they can get a job when they graduate.”
President Bill Law and Broward College President David Armstrong began forming the coalition a year ago. Both serve on Workforce Florida. “We are well aware of the importance of manufacturing in our state,” Law said.
The grant, he said, helps the state combine its resources for a cohesive statewide effort to train critical workers for the manufacturing sector.
The grant is one of the largest ever awarded to SPC. It is the result of a collaboration among 12 Florida community colleges, businesses, workforce and economic development and community organizations, through the leadership of Law and Broward College President David Armstrong.
“We determined what resources existed that we could build from – since we know that once this money goes away, we want to be able to sustain our efforts,” said Jackie Skryd, director of grant development at SPC. “How do we build capacity? The funds will cover development of the infrastructure needed to share these resources, train faculty and expand business relationships for jobs and internships – not just cover unsustainable costs like tuition and fees.”
Over the four years of the grant, 2,600 newly skilled workers are expected to be trained, employed and advanced up the career ladder.
The training, Solis said, “is a ticket to employment.”
The plan, formally called Florida TRADE (Transforming Resources for Accelerated Degrees and Employment) in Advanced Manufacturing, targets training of individuals with a range of skills. Participants can enter and exit the non-credit, industry-recognized certification training at different stages. They can continue to build on one skill and eventually earn a traditional degree or they can add different skills at the same level.
Each participant’s current skills will be evaluated so that prior knowledge can be recognized, allowing them to earn certification or a degree more quickly.
Participants across the state will have access to universal online courses, paired with hands-on training and internships specific to their areas of study.
About 40 industry leaders, including Conmed Linvatec, Jabil, Coca Cola and Mosaic, already are part of the partnership and have identified areas of worker shortage.