Creating Jobs, with Precision
TERI A. HANSEN
(reprint from SRQ daily magazine July 19 ,2014)
When was the last time you heard that an education program graduated 100 percent of its students, and every one had a job waiting?
That’s exactly what happened last month, as 16 adult students completed the inaugural Precision Machining Program at Sarasota County Technical Institute. When they received their certificates, each machinist had a job lined up already or multiple offers to consider. That’s what’s possible through the mixture of vision, drive, and cooperation that fuels the CareerEdge Funders Collaborative.
SCTI’s machining program was launched last year as a direct result of a 2012 CareerEdge job analysis of manufacturing in the Sarasota-Manatee region. It showed that, despite the region’s high unemployment, local manufacturers couldn’t find the skilled workers they needed to grow—what’s often referred to around the nation as the “skill gap.” SCTI director Todd Bowden suspected it, and now he and the Sarasota County school district had the data to prove it.
Area manufacturers jumped on board to help create the curriculum that would teach the skills they needed. Other partners, from the public, private, and independent sectors, quickly coalesced to help build and fund the program.
At last month’s graduation, Bowden praised CareerEdge executive director Mireya Eavey as the driving force behind this successful new machining program, along with manufacturing business owner Jennifer Behrens Schmidt and County Commissioner Christine Robinson. (The county invested over $300,000 in equipment for the program.) The trio exemplifies how CareerEdge successfully leverages community assets and creates partnerships to get real results for employers in our region.
Eavey addressed the graduates too, telling them, “This is a dream come true, and I want to thank all of you for taking a leap of faith by enrolling in this program.” Indeed, going full-time into the brand-new, 11-month educational program was a risk for these jobseekers. But it was a calculated one—calculated precisely, in fact, by Eavey and the many partners involved. Area manufacturers agreed from the outset to host job shadowing and internships for the students. Eavey also worked closely with course instructor Ed Doherty on job placements.
The payoff: 16 marketable professionals who were in high demand before they even finished the course. The next class kicks off in August, with 12 of 18 slots already filled. Manufacturers who want access to these soon-to-be-skilled machinists should contact CareerEdge now.
On a larger scale, CareerEdge’s strategy—finding gaps in our region’s workforce and partnering with employers to provide the right training so underemployed workers can fill positions that unlock new revenue—is also working in the healthcare sector. Next up: information technology and computer science.
CareerEdge itself was a risk when it was created several years back by Gulf Coast Community Foundation and a group of co-investors, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which contributed $1 million in start-up funds. This bold new approach to workforce development turned the entrenched model on its head. But the (independently evaluated) numbers bear out its success: In three years of operation, CareerEdge has helped 2,100 individuals get training, 65% of them earning raises; created 450 new jobs in the region; and added $5.6 million in wages to the local economy. As we like to say at Gulf Coast, right risks, right rewards.
To learn more about CareerEdge, go to CareerEdgeFunders.org.
Teri A Hansen is president and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation, which is one of the founding investors in the CareerEdge Funders Collaborative.