Vets, Unemployed Adults Training for High-Tech Manufacturing Jobs

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Orlando, FL – Although the economy appears to be stuck in the doldrums and the state’s unemployment rate continues to hover around 7 percent, Valencia College is retraining workers for jobs in high demand: skilled jobs in Florida’s manufacturing industry.

Fourteen students – some veterans, others unemployed – are pioneers in a new Valencia program designed to give workers the basic skills for jobs in high-end manufacturing.

Of the 14 students in the program, many, like David Alsberge of Orlando, already have technical experience. Alsberge, an Army veteran, once worked in the microfilm industry, putting data and information onto microfiche for hospitals and banks. Today, he works in a department store. “I have a job,” said Alsberge, “but I’m looking for a better job.”

Allysa Snap signed up for the program because she wants the kind of job that will lead to a career – and will enable her to support her family. Mechanically inclined, Snap has held lots of jobs – ranging from repairing garage doors to pet grooming to working on vintage cars – but none paid well. “I want to be able to succeed, to provide for my kids,” said Snap, 24.

Valencia’s six-month training program is a combination of classroom and virtual learning through which students will earn nationally-recognized industry certifications.  Upon successful completion, students will have the opportunity to continue their learning during a 4-6 week on-the-job internship making $9 to $11 an hour working with Central Florida manufacturing companies.  As they continue to learn new skills, the newly trained workers will find opportunity for employment and pay increases.

Although the first group of students has started classes, a new round of classes will begin in mid-November. Those interested in applying are encouraged to email FTGquestions@wcfla.com for further information.  Applicants must meet Workforce Investment Act (WIA) eligibility requirements, which can be found at http://www.workforcecentralflorida.com/WIA.
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Although Florida’s economy is often derided for its low-wage jobs, there are currently more than 4,000 job openings for skilled workers, according to the Manufacturers Association of Florida. But because there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill the positions, the state’s 17,000 manufacturers – who make everything from electronics to medical devices – often spend months looking for qualified candidates to fill open positions.

To meet that need, the Florida TRADE grant awarded $15 million to a consortium of Florida community colleges to develop training programs to help fill the shortage of skilled workers needed by the state’s manufacturing industry. Valencia received $683,412 from the grant and plans to train about 200 workers over the course of the four-year grant.

“The grant is about closing the gap – getting skilled manufacturing workers to employers,” said Carolyn McMorran of Valencia’s Continuing Education program. “We want to take these people, especially veterans, and train them in manufacturing. The kind of work that they’ll be doing is not your grandfather’s factory job. It’s automation; it’s simulation. It’s very high tech.”

The basic certification that students will earn is a national credential created by the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council. After completing that certificate program, a student will be considered a “certified production technician” and Valencia and Workforce Central Florida will help connect the graduates with local employers.

Valencia is also starting a more advanced, international certification program in CNC training – the computerized, cutting-edge technology used in modern manufacturing.

“Valencia College has always taken a leadership position in training students to meet the needs of Florida’s workforce,” said Al Stimac, president of the Manufacturers Association of Florida. “With over 600,000 open manufacturing jobs nationwide and over 4,000 job openings in Florida, Valencia’s innovative program will serve as a prototype for meeting these critical needs.”

Stimac and other members of the Manufacturers Association of Florida plan to provide internships and job opportunities to graduates of the Valencia program and the efforts at the 11 other community colleges participating in the Florida TRADE grant.

Statewide, the consortium has lined up partnerships with more than 35 employers, including Florida Power & Light, Jabil Circuit, Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi Power Systems, and (dot).decimal.

The grants are part of a $2 billion, four-year initiative that the federal government kicked off last year. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative focuses on training workers in fields such as advanced manufacturing, transportation, health care, as well as science, technology, engineering and math careers. The grants are being administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.

 

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