The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, a FutureMakers Coalition partner, has awarded the Glades County Regional Training Center a $50,000 Community Impact Grant.
The grant will be used to install a much needed telecommunications network to the Center including Wi-Fi and Internet so that training classes may begin.
“For the first time ever the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is providing a grant in Glades County with the potential for real change around developing workforce and supporting economic development in Glades and the surrounding area,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “Our hope is that by providing these resources and getting the training center up and running, more businesses as well as individuals will benefit and more FutureMakers Coalition partners will come on board to support the training center and increase the post-secondary attainment of working age adults in Southwest Florida.”
According to Glades County Manager Paul Carlisle this is the last piece of funding needed to open the Center and get training programs up and running.
“This funding is vital to be able to begin utilizing the Center as it was meant to be,” said Carlisle. “Now we will be able to begin our training programs to start making an impact on not only Glades and Hendry counties, but our region as a whole.”
The new 40,000-square-foot Glades County Regional Training Center represents the future for Glades and Hendry residents to improve their job outlook and marketability by training for state- and national certifications needed by companies throughout Southwest Florida and the Heartland region. Both counties are included in the FutureMakers Coalition, an initiative to transform the workforce by increasing the number of degree and certificate holders from 27 percent to 40 percent by 2025.
The manufacturing training center aligns with the mission of FutureMakers and is one of the first examples of the coalition’s emphasis on creating collaborations between government, educators, area businesses and community stakeholders to offer certification training in skills needed by regional employers. Polk State College, Florida SouthWestern State College and Palm Beach State College are working cooperatively to establish curricula.
“Roughly 80 percent of young adults in Florida enter the job market without necessary skills,” said Carlisle. “Manufacturers in the South Central Florida/Southwest Florida regions are facing the perfect storm when it comes to workforce recruitment, training and retention.”
Carlisle said companies are caught between the retirement and succession of their current workforce, largely due to age and changing technology in their plants. There is a tremendous and immediate need for skills trades and certificate based training to supply the needed trained workforce for just the existing companies in the area.
Carlisle wants to see high school students, out-of-school youth (ages 16-24), veterans, TANF recipients and others in the Glades service area who are unemployed or underemployed receive training. The training would be comprised of soft skills training and stackable certifications that can lead to advanced training and employment opportunities in manufacturing and logistics in such a way that they can step on and off the training path until they reach a level of employment where they can provide a sustainable lifestyle for themselves and their families. Carlisle also wants to make additional training opportunities available to incumbent employees for advancement, so that a continuous pipeline of entry level positions are created and there is trained staff to fill those positions.
“This is the way to get more people certified in the trades,” he said. “If we don’t have tradespeople we don’t have a house, a working air conditioner or auto mechanic.”
Tradespeople are the backbone of many major industries. Construction jobs require skilled labor, employees certified in plumbing, electrical work, HVAC installation, and more. The training center will offer fast-track routes to certification with requirements completed as early as six months to two years depending on the program.
The center also houses office space for CareerSource, a state program that pays for certification and college training for the unemployed, provides relocation assistance, on-the-job training and hiring incentives for businesses.
“The center is the pinnacle that turns things around for us,” said Carlisle. “Not everyone is going to college. This is exactly what the FutureMakers Coalition is looking for.”
The center, midway between Florida’s East and Gulf coasts, will initially target residents of rural Glades and Hendry counties and eventually expand its reach to provide certification and specialized training for residents and businesses throughout Southwest Florida.
“We’re not going to bring manufacturing companies here unless we have a steady skilled workforce,” he said. “We feel it will happen when businesses realize there are talented employees in this area.”
The training center can also decrease downtime for manufacturers establishing a location within the industrial park location. Carlisle said employees can train on the company’s equipment within the warehouse while a manufacturer completes build-out then moves to its new location.
“Everything is in place and businesses don’t have to jump through hoops,” Carlisle said. “We’re ready to get our residents to work.”