We started with no equipment.
We had a local group named CareerEdge Funders Collaborative.
CareerEdge was designed to work on both sides of the labor market – the supply side and the demand side – as well as among intermediary organizations, such as higher education institutions, in order to fuel the pipeline of skilled labor needed by the region’s employers. Two of the most tangible goals are to help low-skill/low-wage workers advance into higher-skill/higher-wage careers, while providing employers with the workers they need to accelerate growth.
CareerEdge hired Kempton Research and Planning to help us conduct a skills analysis study. The results of this study illustrated the skills gap and articulated misalignment and challenges. Jeff Maultsby (Economic Development of Sarasota County), Jennifer Behrens Schimdt (SAMA and Atlantic Mold & Design) and Mireya Eavey from CareerEdge presented the findings to the Sarasota County Commission and County School Board Members. CareerEdge spent a significant amount of time advocating to convince the school and commission why it was necessary to move forward with the program proposed. As a result of our efforts, Sarasota County funded the necessary equipment needed $325,000. CareerEdge also provided an additional $25,000. Jeff and Mireya united community partners around this mission and developed a community-wide action plan.
CareerEdge, a privately funded workforce-development group that focuses on harnessing a community’s full resources, hired Kempton Research and Planning to conduct a skills-gap study. The results were clear.
When asked about the greatest hiring challenges over next three to five years, 38 percent of manufacturing companies named skilled production workers as the most difficult to find — twice the number who answered engineers and four times the number who said sales and marketing people. And 75 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that schools are not preparing workers with skills needed in manufacturing.
CareerEdge — the only organization of its kind in Florida as part of the national Funders Collaborative — helped put together the workgroup that began searching for the best solution. The group included: CareerEdge; Sarasota & Manatee Area Manufacturers Association; SCTI and the Sarasota County School Board; Suncoast Workforce Board; Sarasota County Commission; Gulf Coast Community Foundation; Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce; and Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County.
“From the very beginning, there was a spirit of cooperation,” said Jeff Maultsby, director of business and economic development for Sarasota County. “It was really a model effort on how things can be done and should be done.”
“The study was definitive that the jobs were here in this community,” Todd Bowden said. (Director of SCTI at time and current Sarasota County Superintendent.) He moved swiftly to make a change-order in a building already under construction to accommodate the new machining program’s lab.
The previous Sarasota County Technical Institute (SCTI) machining program was closed from lack of participation and machinery auctioned. Sarasota county decides to build a new school in 2012 – But no machine shop in the plans.
The local manufacturers’ organization, SAMA, played a crucial role, representing the 600 manufacturers in the two-county area. Jennifer Behrens Schmidt, president of SAMA and of Venice-based Atlantic Mold & Machining Corp., dug in with SCTI to help move things along, including the development of the precision machining training program. She probably logged the most hours on a volunteer basis.
In an unusual move, local manufacturing leaders were instrumental in creating the materials needed by the program. It was an employer-led curriculum. That cut the cost of machinery in half, because the people in the field knew what was, and was not, needed.
Then I got a note from Haas CNC machinery HFO Tampa salesman Dave Thomas that the school needed an instructor. I was working at defense contractor Lockheed Martin in Orlando at the time but it interested me. And so we begin.
On August 2012 I started the first class of new program with 18 students and we had NO machines for 4 months. But we learned as much as we could during those 4 months and we didn’t lose any students during that time period. We did some field trip s and shop tours to educate that way. Local manufacturer Sun Hydraulics came by with a donation of raw material metals. Machinery was coming in slowly and electric being hooked up. Director Todd Bowden promised we would be fully functional when we got back from Christmas break.
January 2013 – we come back and everything is working – just as promised. We dug into that big box of donated metals and we went to town. The rest of those months from January to June we spent being machinists.
Then its June and time to finish. We decide to have an official graduation. All the students have been hired by local companies. Success. We made it. We have done the same for the next 4 years. Added some night school as well. Produced 100+ machinists who all have jobs in the local community. Time for Phase 2.
We lead the state in NIMS industry certifications with 358 in 4 years
I guess I have a special feeling for the original class of apprentices. Some graduates are still working and building skills on the job and now training more apprentices. Two of our Graduates have started their own CNC Machine shops.
Even Ivan P. from our first class was recruited to work at the new Tesla Lithium battery plant in Sparks Nevada. I made him promise to send a pic of him in front of the Tesla sign
I just wanted to give a thanks to all that made this happen. Many times we make plans and they don’t come out the way it was planned. But this time it did.
“This accomplishment would not have been possible without all involved.”
It is important that we recognize and sincerely thank
Sarasota & Manatee Area Manufacturers Association,
Suncoast Technical College
Sarasota County School Board
Suncoast Workforce Board
Sarasota County Commission
Gulf Coast Community Foundation
Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce
Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County.
Graduation for the Precision Machining & CNC program will be held in the Suncoast Technical College Conference Center on June 21 at 6:00pm.
We look forward to our continuing journey as we move on to Phase 2 in training and filling jobs in the Manufacturing sector for our community