By SCOTT LOCKWOOD, North Port Sun
SARASOTA COUNTY — County commissioners found a way this week to give an extra $100,000 to an area organization that specializes in training and growing the local workforce. In July 2010, CareerEdge, a nonprofit that works to get a skilled training force and accelerate job creation, was awarded an economic-development… incentive grant of $200,000 from the county’s Economic Incentive Fund, to be paid in installments over a four-year period. So far, the nonprofit had received $100,000. In May, CareerEdge had asked that the commission increase its annual investment over the next two years from $50,000 to $100,000, which would allow the organization to expand its work with Sarasota County employees and employers. Now eligible for its third installment, CareerEdge requested this week an additional $50,000 in conjunction with the payment, for a total of $100,000.
However, a resolution recently adopted by the commission states the incentive fund should be utilized for only private businesses, making nonprofit organizations — like CareerEdge — now ineligible for assistance from the fund. Commissioners debated briefly about using funds from the Economic Incentive Fund anyway, but decided to grant CareerEdge’s $100,000 request using remaining funds from the county’s tax-delinquent lot fund.
“One of the reasons we’ve asked for an increase in funding is we have a lot to do in the area of manufacturing,” CareerEdge Executive Director Mireya Eavey said at Wednesday’s commission meeting. “A lot of our employers say they have the vacancies but cannot find skilled workers. We want to put more money into apprenticeship-type programs, because it is hard for manufacturers to hire people right out of school without some of these skills. Without this, we don’t have the skilled workforce incentives, and companies will not come here; they’re not going to stay here and they’re not going to grow.” When CareerEdge started in 2010, its goal was to work with 300 people and 10 employers. Through the first quarter of this year alone they had worked with more than 1,500 people and 14 employers. In a presentation of an impact-analysis study to the commission, data showed that CareerEdge helped 284 people get jobs and secure raises for 589 workers in Sarasota County that increased their annual income by a combined $1.5 million. The group also helps with tuition expenses of employees who cannot take advantage of tuition-reimbursement programs through employers. This is part of CareerEdge’s Bridges to Career program, which will be part of a pilot program coming this fall to the North Port Goodwill store in the Shoppes of North Port plaza. “Microsoft Elevate America and Bank of America invested in our Bridges to Careers program for the
underemployed and unemployed individual who needs basic job readiness and technical skills to enter the workplace,” Eavey said. “We are working with employers in North Port who are willing hire these individuals after the training if they meet their organizational requirements.”