The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded Valencia College and a consortium of Florida community colleges $15 million to develop training programs to help fill the shortage of skilled workers needed by the state’s manufacturing industry.
The Florida consortium project, which is being led by officials at St. Petersburg College, is called Florida TRADE (Transforming Resources for Accelerated Degrees & Employment) in Advanced Manufacturing.
For its role, Valencia will receive $683,412 in funding to create a program that will be aimed at veterans and the unemployed. In partnership with Workforce Central Florida, Valencia officials will create a series of online classes and certifications to provide workers with the basic skills they need to work in high-end manufacturing.
“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.”
One of the certification programs being developed is a new 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.
Local manufacturers looking for high-skilled workers include a global medical-device manufacturer that uses computerized machines to create radiation therapy equipment.
Valencia plans to hire a grant coordinator in June 2013 and college officials plan to start training classes in fall 2013. Workforce Central Florida, as a central partner in the project, will recruit participants and serve as case managers during the program, while Valencia will provide the training. Over the course of the three-year grant, Valencia plans to train about 200 workers.
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 and the U.S. Department of Education.
Nationally, 297 colleges are receiving grants as part of the program.
“The beauty of this program is that all of our grantees have formed strategic partnerships with local employers,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, in announcing the grant. “With these moneys, schools can develop training programs that will help grow the most promising local industries. They can invest in staff and education resources and provide students with access to free, digital learning materials. All of the course materials developed through these grants will be available for use by other education providers through a Creative Commons license.”
St. Petersburg College will serve as the lead college and grant administrator. Other participating state colleges are: Broward College, Daytona State College, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Gulf Coast College, Hillsborough Community College, Polk State College and Tallahassee Community College.
Statewide, the consortium has lined up partnerships with more than 35 employers , including Florida Power & Light, Jabil Circuit, ConMed Livatec, AO Precision Manufacturing, Belcan Engineering Group and Rybovich Yachts.