Business buzz: Local briefs about local businesses

CareerEdge and foundation make progress

CareerEdge Funders, a southwest Florida workforce organization that helps local businesses find and train skilled employees, used $550,000 in grants from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation on more jobs, more training and more employee promotions than expected during 2011.

“Even in an economic downturn, we have proven that when funders and businesses collaborate and work together, we can accomplish amazing things,” said Mireya Eavey, executive director of CareerEdge.

Year-end results show that CareerEdge and employer-funded programs collaborated to train 1,100 workers and 357 job seekers, helped individuals earn more than 3,300 educational or industry credentials, assisted 342 previously unemployed workers find employment and saved 177 area jobs.

New College value again rated highly

New College of Florida is No. 3 on the “Best Value Public College in America” list for 2012 by Princeton Review and USA Today.

As part of the media coverage of this year’s rankings, New College was featured on NBC’s “Today Show” and in USA Today’s print edition Tuesday morning.

“It is a wonderful school, a small school,” the Princeton Review’s Robert Franek said on the “Today show.” “It’s the official honors college of the state of Florida. It’s an enormous academic value and a great financial aid value as well.”

It is the fourth time New College has been among the top three best value public schools. The college was No. 2 in 2011 and No. 3 in 2010 and 2009. The only other Florida state university on the 2012 list is the University of Florida, ranked No. 7.

Running store wins regional recognition

In Competitor magazine’s annual reader survey, published in its January issue, On A Shoestring, of Bradenton, was chosen the “Best of” Running Store in the Southeastern United States, and Suncoast Striders Walking & Running Club, also of Bradenton, won “Best of” Running Club in the Southeastern United States.

More than 5,000 readers took part in the survey.

Waste Pro rewards its safest drivers

Waste Pro presented $10,000 each to four garbage truck drivers who have had flawless safety records over the past three years.

The ceremony was held at Waste Pro’s regional facility in Bradenton. The drivers were Jose Martinez-Mendoza, Monnie Braxton, Mark Hammonds and Lewis Brown.

Since 2004, Waste Pro drivers have received $470,000 in Safety Awards.

Auto clinic gets Angie’s List award

Gulf Auto Clinic, in Bradenton, received the 2011 Angie’s List Super Service Award, an honor bestowed annually on only about 5 percent of all the businesses rated by the service.

Winners have met strict eligibility requirements, including earning a minimum number of reports and an exemplary rating from their clients and abiding by Angie’s List guidelines.

Koontz opens own law firm

Attorney and certified public accountant Jo Ann Koontz has formed Koontz & Associates PL, a law firm focusing on residential and commercial real estate transactions, federal and state tax law and business law.

An Ohio native, Koontz received a bachelor’s in business administration and her law degree from Ohio Northern University. She worked locally with the law firms of Icard Merrill, then Yesner & Boss.

Koontz & Associates will occupy the former Yesner & Boss office at 1819 Main Street, Suite 215, Sarasota. The entire Sarasota staff will become employees of Koontz & Associates.

“Nothing has changed except the name on the sign,” Koontz said.

Also staying with the office is Jacqueline “Jackie” Meeker, who will focus on foreclosure defense and civil litigation, as well as real estate, tax and corporate law. A Florida native, Meeker received her undergraduate degree in legal studies from the University of Central Florida and her law degree from Stetson University School of Law.

BUSINESS BUZZ: Local briefs about local businesses

CareerEdge Funders, a southwest Florida workforce organization that helps local businesses find and train skilled employees, used $550,000 in grants from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation on more jobs, more training and more employee promotions than expected during 2011.

“Even in an economic downturn, we have proven that when funders and businesses collaborate and work together, we can accomplish amazing things,” said Mireya Eavey, executive director of CareerEdge.

Year-end results show that CareerEdge and employer-funded programs collaborated to train 1,100 workers and 357 job seekers, helped individuals earn more than 3,300 educational or industry credentials, assisted 342 previously unemployed workers find employment and saved 177 area jobs.

New College value again rated highly

New College of Florida is No. 3 on the “Best Value Public College in America” list for 2012 by Princeton Review and USA Today.

As part of the media coverage of this year’s rankings, New College was featured on NBC’s “Today Show” and in USA Today’s print edition Tuesday morning.

“It is a wonderful school, a small school,” the Princeton Review’s Robert Franek said on the “Today show.” “It’s the official honors college of the state of Florida. It’s an enormous academic value and a great financial aid value as well.”

It is the fourth time New College has been among the top three best value public schools. The college was No. 2 in 2011 and No. 3 in 2010 and 2009. The only other Florida state university on the 2012 list is the University of Florida, ranked No. 7.

Running store wins regional recognition

In Competitor magazine’s annual reader survey, published in its January issue, On A Shoestring, of Bradenton, was chosen the “Best of” Running Store in the Southeastern United States, and Suncoast Striders Walking & Running Club, also of Bradenton, won “Best of” Running Club in the Southeastern United States.

More than 5,000 readers took part in the survey.

Waste Pro rewards its safest drivers

Waste Pro presented $10,000 each to four garbage truck drivers who have had flawless safety records over the past three years.

The ceremony was held at Waste Pro’s regional facility in Bradenton. The drivers were Jose Martinez-Mendoza, Monnie Braxton, Mark Hammonds and Lewis Brown.

Since 2004, Waste Pro drivers have received $470,000 in Safety Awards.

Auto clinic gets Angie’s List award

Gulf Auto Clinic, in Bradenton, received the 2011 Angie’s List Super Service Award, an honor bestowed annually on only about 5 percent of all the businesses rated by the service.

Winners have met strict eligibility requirements, including earning a minimum number of reports and an exemplary rating from their clients and abiding by Angie’s List guidelines.

Koontz opens own law firm

Attorney and certified public accountant Jo Ann Koontz has formed Koontz & Associates PL, a law firm focusing on residential and commercial real estate transactions, federal and state tax law and business law.

An Ohio native, Koontz received a bachelor’s in business administration and her law degree from Ohio Northern University. She worked locally with the law firms of Icard Merrill, then Yesner & Boss.

Koontz & Associates will occupy the former Yesner & Boss office at 1819 Main Street, Suite 215, Sarasota. The entire Sarasota staff will become employees of Koontz & Associates.

“Nothing has changed except the name on the sign,” Koontz said.

Also staying with the office is Jacqueline “Jackie” Meeker, who will focus on foreclosure defense and civil litigation, as well as real estate, tax and corporate law. A Florida native, Meeker received her undergraduate degree in legal studies from the University of Central Florida and her law degree from Stetson University School of Law.

Sarasota chamber kick off breakfast

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce will launch “The Year of the Member” Friday at its annual Kick-Off Breakfast.

Seven respected business and community leaders and chamber members, including Congressman Vern Buchanan, will share strategies for success and suggest strategies our community can use to strengthen its economy.

Organization gives employers and workers an edge

BRADENTON – When Mireya Eavey was with Sarasota County’s Economic Development Corp. a few years ago, employers looking to move here would typically ask if the region had enough of the skilled workers they would need.

Facts

CAREEREDGE

Created: early 2010

Executive director: Mireya Eavey

Funding: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, National Fund for Workplace Solutions, and others.

Local employer partners: Sarasota Memorial and Manatee Memorial hospitals, Blake Medical Center, Pines of Sarasota, among and others.

2011/2012 budget: $1.3 million

Nine out of 10 times, Eavey says, the answer was no.

Now, though, thanks to new-age work force collaborative called CareerEdge, Eavey is at the forefront of a push to enhance workers’ skills with training and to meet employers’ labor needs.

“We’re helping employers find skilled employees, often from their own ranks, so they can run more efficiently and make more money,” said Eavey, the group’s executive director.

“And we’re employee-focused as well, we’re working on career laddering and wage increases,” Eavey said. “The difference is we’re looking at both supply and demand.”

CareerEdge’s mission is galvanizing amid unusually high regional unemployment that has failed to wane since the end of the Great Recession in 2009 or show signs of dramatic improvement on the horizon.

When the group began gelling in late 2009, for example, unemployment in Sarasota and Manatee counties stood at a depressing 12.5 percent.

In August, the most recent month for which figures are available, the same area’s jobless rate was an average 11.1 percent.

Even more pernicious, state economists predict Florida’s unemployment rate on a seasonally adjusted basis will remain stagnant at current levels, around 10.6 percent, through the end of 2012.

Added to that, many economists believe Florida’s jobless rate will not return to “normal” levels — between 5 percent and 6 percent unemployment — until 2019, and some forecast the state will not reach that level again until 2022.

To counter the malaise and make inroads into unemployment and so-called “underemployment,” in which workers take part-time jobs or work beneath their skill set to bring in some income, CareerEdge has amassed an impressive list of partners and contributors.

For its part, the organization provides multi-year grants to employers to train workers or enhance skills.

Public-sector partners in the effort include Sarasota County, the City of Bradenton and the Central Community Redevelopment Agency.

Private funders include Bank of America and Microsoft Corp., to name just two.

Just as significant is the involvement of civic groups and charities such as the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, the United Way, the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, the Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Sarasota-Manatee and the Suncoast Workforce Board.

The National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a private, $30 million initiative, designated CareerEdge as one of only 31 groups nationwide to receive its funding and support.

CareerEdge has differentiated itself, too, by focusing on a handful of sectors that traditionally offer higher-wage jobs and have had solid growth.

For now, the group intends to limit its efforts to health care, manufacturing, transportation and technology.

In the health care arena, a sector where pending chronic nursing shortages are likely to dovetail with an ever-aging population, CareerEdge is working with Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Blake Medical Center, Manatee Memorial Hospital, the Pines of Sarasota and others.

At Sarasota Memorial, CareerEdge is coordinating English language and GED preparation classes to help about 30 lower-wage hospitality employees move up.

“We love the idea of taking good performing employees and guiding them to longer-term goals,” said Susan Evans, the hospital’s hospitality services supervisor.

But CareerEdge, Evans said, pledged to help the hospital with about $53,000 a year only if a long-range, comprehensive plan were developed.

“CareerEdge told us they wanted a big plan to bring about real change in people’s lives,” Evans said. “They didn’t want people just to make $1 or $2 more an hour.”

What has differentiated CareerEdge, as well, is that it requires employers to contribute substantial money, in addition to time and effort, into the programs developed. Moreover, CareerEdge’s funding works on a sliding scale, in which employers agree to kick in more and more money as time goes on.

“Employers have to have some skin the game,” Eavey said. “They have to answer questions on a continual basis about their programs and show us quantifiable results and how our funding will impact them.”

The idea, Eavey says, is entry-level workers will receive new skills and move up, creating jobs for new entry-level workers. Employers, in turn, will retain skilled labor and build loyalty.

Eavey acknowledges the idea for CareerEdge received some pushback when the group was officially launched in early 2010, after receiving a $1 million grant from the Knight Foundation.

“People said, ‘Why do we need another workforce group?'” said Eavey, who joined in May 2010. “But we’re not about numbers — we’re more about fixing a system and making solutions sustainable.”

To fix flaws in the system, CareerEdge has raised about $3.9 million to date, much of it from matching grants and donations. The group’s budget for the 2011/2012 fiscal year is $1.3 million, Eavey said.

In its second year, Eavey said CareerEdge will focus more on manufacturing — it is already working with companies like window maker PGT Inc. and drinkware maker Tervis Tumbler — by providing computer training and “digital literacy” classes, as more and more factory jobs require technical skills.

To that end, CareerEdge has linked with the Sarasota County Technical Institute to train additional welders and machinists with high-tech knowledge, Eavey said.

It also plans to establish or cement relationships with Barry’s Plastics, Gold Coast Distribution, METI, Sun Hydraulics, Aso, Octex Corp., and other companies operating here.

That push comes as Sarasota County’s Economic Development Agency predicts a need for 2,500 new manufacturing jobs in the county by 2016.

Eavey hopes to inject CareerEdge into public policy, too, to better understand how public money is spent, and why, as it relates to work-force matters.

To handle it all, CareerEdge itself plans to hire a new coordinator. That position will bring CareerEdge’s full-time staff to three.

Within five years, Eavey hopes to rid area employers — or companies considering moving here — of the perception that Sarasota and Manatee counties do not have enough skilled workers.

 

New toll of recession in Sarasota and Manatee: 46,000 jobs

BRADENTON – Sarasota and Manatee counties erased 46,000 jobs in the economic recession that began in 2007, according to newly compiled federal data.

Facts

Area strong on job growth, less so on wages

Sarasota County ranks high in job growth, but low in wage growth in a new report covering the country’s 323 largest counties.

The new report, issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, says the number of jobs in the county grew 1.4 percent during the year that ended March 31, ranking it 118th among the largest U.S. counties.

Nationally, job growth measured 1.3 percent during the period. Manatee County ranked 229th on the list.

Several urban areas in the state fared well in the report, including Collier County, which ranked 10th; Orange County, 56th; and Miami, 74th.

But wage growth in Sarasota County — 2.4 percent over the year-long period — lagged the U.S. rate of 5.2 percent. Overall, the county ranked 272nd among the nation’s largest counties.

Average weekly wages in the county were $722, or $37,544 per year, compared with the national average of $935, or $48,620.

Manatee ranked 188th in wage growth.

— Doug Sword

The combined two-county loss — nearly equivalent to the population of the City of Sarasota — means employment in Southwest Florida is nearly identical to what it was at the start of the last decade.

“Sarasota was more dramatically impacted than Manatee by the recession, but both were hit pretty severely,” said Chris Benner, an associate professor at the University at California Davis who analyzed U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

“It’s hard to overstate the level of the economic crisis,” said Benner, who conducted his study of information from 2007 to 2010 for the National Fund for Workplace Solutions, which is in turn working with CareerEdge, a Bradenton work force group trying to stimulate job growth.

Mireya Eavey, CareerEdge’s executive director, said the data is important because it provides a road map for targeting future growth sectors.

The local data emerges as federal revisions conclude that the U.S. recession from 2007 to mid-2009 — the longest and most severe in seven decades — crippled the economy even more than previously believed.

During that time, the total economy shrank 5.1 percent, according to Commerce Department figures released in late July. That decline, brought on by weak consumer demand, was among the largest in the 10 recessions that the nation has endured since the end of World War II.

Construction and manufacturing suffered the most in Southwest Florida during the recession.

Jobs in construction declined by 44 percent in Sarasota County, and 36 percent in Manatee County during the four-year period. Manufacturing jobs fell by 33 percent in Sarasota County, and 22 percent in Manatee County.

“These are big numbers we’re talking about, obviously,” Benner said.

Even in the recession, though, there were bright spots in both counties.

Health care and private educational services both grew at impressive clips, and have continued to add jobs as workers retrain or migrate into growing fields.

Education employment grew 29 percent in Sarasota County from 2007 to 2010 and by 116 percent in Manatee County. Health care was up by 7.2 percent in Sarasota County and by 5 percent in Manatee County.

Wages and salaries in health care have risen “rapidly,” Benner said, even as the sector becomes less centralized away from hospitals, which have traditionally been the largest industry employers.

Manufacturing, too, appears to be rebounding dramatically.

Kyle Stevens, a market research and project manager with Sarasota County’s Economic Development Corp., said 80 percent of the projects and 2,364 new jobs that the two counties have landed since October 2010 were manufacturing related.

Companies like fire truck maker Pierce Manufacturing and cabinet builder Adams Group have pushed the average wage paid by new companies to $48,000, Stevens said.

While he acknowledges that some jobs might never come back to this region, Benner is optimistic that recovery will happen — eventually.

“As dim as it seems now, amidst nearly 12 percent unemployment, as overall demand grows in the U.S. economy, jobs will come back to your region,” he said.

 

CareerEdge Receives Microsoft ‘Elevate America’ Grant

Careeredge Funders Collaborative Receives Elevate America Community Initiative Grant From Microsoft

Grant Will Fund Program To Help Underserved Populations in Sarasota and Manatee Counties Find Jobs

Sarasota, FL – CareerEdge announced that Microsoft  has awarded $209,000 in cash as well as the software needed to help the organization offer technology skills training and job placement services to the Sarasota and Manatee communities.

In today’s technology-driven economy, finding a job without strong technology skills and during a tough economic downturn can be extremely difficult. To help ease this burden, CareerEdge is partnering with Microsoft through the company’s Elevate America community initiative, to provide technology access and skills training to help people find employment.

CareerEdge is placing a special focus on underserved communities that have greater barriers to employment and re-employment than the broader population, including young workers, women, and minorities. About 80% of the participants will be young workers ages 18 to 25 and low- to moderate-income women of all ages. According to the Economic Policy Institute, young adults represent 13.5 percent of the workforce but account for 26.4 percent of unemployed workers.

Selected through a competitive funding process, the grants will help CareerEdge fund a comprehensive set of resources to help people succeed in today’s workplace, such as career counseling, technology skills training, job placement, and additional support services like childcare and transportation. CareerEdge Funders Collaborative is dedicated to moving low-wage workers into higher-paying jobs while providing employers with the skilled employees they need. This “dual customer” approach is critical so that employers have access to qualified employees, working residents can earn family-sustaining wages, and the region can remain economically competitive.

“We are thankful to Microsoft Corp. for these funds, which will help us support the development of needed workforce skills in our region and make a difference in the lives of individuals in our community,” said Mireya Eavey, executive director of CareerEdge.

“With unemployment as high as 30% in segments of our African-American community, this type of targeted grant for young minorities is urgently needed,” said City of Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner. “We are most fortunate to secure this grant for both Sarasota and Manatee counties.”

“The City of Bradenton is thrilled to be at the forefront of advancing regional strategies that increase the skill sets and employment opportunities of disadvantaged populations in Manatee and Sarasota counties,” said City of Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston.

“Too many Americans don’t have the technology skills that many jobs today require,” said Pamela Passman, corporate vice president of Global Corporate Affairs at Microsoft.  “CareerEdge has demonstrated how it can reach some of the most underserved people in our society, and we’re honored to partner with them to provide training and job support to the people who need it most.”

Since 2003, Microsoft has been committed to providing technology skills training to people across the country through its Unlimited Potential program, which includes Elevate America. In partnership with thousands of nonprofit organizations including CareerEdge, the company has reached more than 27 million people. More information on Elevate America is available at www.microsoft.com/ElevateAmerica.

Employers New Edge

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Rod Millington CareerEdge Executive Director Mireya Eavey, with Michelle Callan, PGT’s university manager, distributer education. The company, a windows and doors manufacturer in North Venice, is pleased with the employee-training programs offered by the Bradenton-based nonprofit.

When PGT Inc. CEO Rod Hershberger wanted to expand production for the North Venice custom windows and doors manufacturer, he needed skilled workers — and he needed them fast.

Enter the CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, a nonprofit work force training program based on a flexible national model developed in the Northeast and based in Boston. CareerEdge aims to build career paths for lower income employees by focusing on growth industries and assisting employers looking to fill positions with skilled workers.

Since opening an office in Bradenton in September, CareerEdge has trained 682 employees — including 289 new hires — according to its director, Mireya Eavey. The Sarasota/Manatee program is one of 31 similar ones around the country, but so far the only one in Florida.

Unlike bureaucratic public work force boards that focus on services for the unemployed, CareerEdge contracts directly with targeted employers in high-demand industries including manufacturing, health care, transportation and technology. “They’re about serving the employees,” says Eavey, about work force boards. “We’re about serving the employers. We’re an enhancement.”

CareerEdge, however, does work closely with the Suncoast Workforce Board and staff, says Eavey, who says the two organizations complement one another.

Sally Hill, spokeswoman for the board, agrees. “We absolutely work in partnership,” she says. “There’s areas where we may not be able to provide training under the Workforce Investment Act, where CareerEdge can.”
Ted Ehrlichman, the board’s COO, says there’s no overlap, it’s just that CareerEdge is sector-specific. The program also fills a gap, he says. “They’re about training for the next better job and the next better job.”

Hershberger likes seeing the training gap being filled at PGT. “I think the program’s been wonderful. We take them though an extensive program,” he says about the trainees. “We want them ready to work. Using CareerEdge they’re able to do all that training ahead of time. We definitely recommend them.”

That training includes the Florida Ready-To-Work assessment and certification. It also includes “observation testing,” which evaluates workers on the use of equipment they’ll be operating in their jobs. At PGT, 195 workers completed the certification and another 85 employees will be going through observation testing soon, Eavey says.

Despite nearly 16,700 unemployed in Sarasota County and a 10.4% unemployment rate as of May, finding skilled workers can still be a challenge for manufacturers and other industries in need of technical know-how or professional expertise. That’s a common problem around the country that the National Fund for Workforce Solutions sought to solve when it formed in 2007.

The fund is a collaboration between top foundations and a national network of companies, work force groups and government agencies. Big backers include the Ford Foundation, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Microsoft and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The national funders provide seed money — $23 million so far — to regional sites to develop localized solutions. CareerEdge’s funding includes $1 million from the Knight Foundation, $450,000 from the National Fund, $209,000 from Microsoft (plus a $30,000 software donation), $450,000 from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, plus $200,000 from Sarasota County and additional funds from the cities of Sarasota ($120,000) and Bradenton ($400,000 divided among two community redevelopment agencies and the downtown development authority).

In each of the 31 regions where the National Fund is working, regional collaboratives bring together government agencies, foundations and other philanthropic organizations to target financial resources and strategic thinking on creating jobs and careers. Together, the regional collaboratives committed an additional $100 million to the effort.

Mark Pritchett, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s senior vice president of community investment, says the foundation bumped up its initial $150,000 investment in CareerEdge to target health care worker training.
Blake Hospital in Bradenton has put 239 employees through the training, nearly all for trauma certification, but several also received surgical technician training, says Eavey. “The key is working with employers that know where the jobs are that makes this successful,” Pritchett says. “It’s the dollars following the employees to these places that makes them get hired.”

Eavey has raised $1.25 million locally so far, and says the program now has funding totaling nearly $4 million. She expects that should keep CareerEdge running for almost four years.

That suits PGT’s Hershberger, who says the CareerEdge program helps his company’s bottom line. “Normally the training process to bring someone up to speed can take three to six months,” he says. “It cuts a month off.”
Looking ahead, Hershberger adds, “Yes, as we hire people, we’ll use it.”

Bridges To Careers For Low-Skilled Workers In Manatee, Sarasota

A new service being launched by CareerEdge will help build new careers for healthcare workers in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Seeded with a $75,000 grant from Jane’s Trust, the pilot program will focus on preparing young residents in low-income areas for career-path jobs through training and support services. It will primarily target the neighborhoods of Washington Park in central Bradenton and Newtown in Sarasota. Other areas to be served include North Port and other areas in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

“This generous funding from Jane’s Trust means we can begin to extend our training efforts to unemployed residents who are ready to enter the workforce,” said Mireya Eavey, executive director of CareerEdge.

A range of partners has committed to participate in the new program, which is dubbed “Bridges to Careers for Low-Skilled Workers.” The respective economic development agencies in Manatee and Sarasota counties will help establish connections with potential employers. State College of Florida and the Sarasota County Technical Institute will help recruit and enroll participants and provide support services.

CareerEdge plans to seek additional funding from current and prospective investors for the multi-year program.

“We have raised more than $3 million in funding and commitments to help train incumbent workers for better jobs, but there is a critical gap in Sarasota and Manatee counties for the unemployed,” said Eavey. “CareerEdge’s work-readiness program will set itself apart by identifying the requirements for success for low-skilled adults at the next level of education and employment.”

National designation for local workforce collaborative

Manatee and Sarasota County will become the nation’s newest National Fund for Workforce Solutions site, thanks to work by CareerEdge Funders Collaborative of Manatee & Sarasota (CEFC), formerly known as the Manatee Sarasota Workforce Funders Collaborative.

CareerEdge is the only Nationally Designated Funder for Workforce Solutions inFlorida.

The National Fund for Workforce Solutions is delighted to welcome CareerEdge into our national network of innovative workforce development initiatives,” said Fred Dedrick, Executive Director for the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. “Manatee andSarasota Counties are excellent examples of how communities can pull together great leaders to develop smart strategies to address the very serious problems of unemployment and skill deficits.  Their strong emphasis on working directly with employers combined with the dedicated commitment of many community partners has raised to date over $2.5 million in regional support to match the three year NFWS grant of $450,000, bodes well for their success.”

Manatee and Sarasota counties will benefit from the national designation the addition of   $450,000 in new grant money will expand career opportunities for our residents and connect our counties with other innovative regions throughout the United States.  “CareerEdge represents the new “out of the box” thinking we need to build the foundation for a new regional economy,” said Teri Hansen, President and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice and an initial investor in CareerEdge.

CareerEdge is dedicated to preparing low-skilled workers in the two-county region for higher paying jobs in the fields of healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and technology industries.

CareerEdge is the first of its kind in the Southeastern United States and will be connected to private-philanthropic contributors including Microsoft, Hitachi, and Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L Knight Foundation and others.

Nearly 200 funders nationwide are investing millions of dollars in local communities to help get people back to work and ensure that American businesses are able to compete, said Steve Queior, President of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Inc.

“CareerEdge both leverages existing workforce development activities and fills a void where programs with very specific criteria can’t meet our community’s needs,” he said. “The initiative’s flexibility to target resources where they will make the most positive impacts for both workers and employers is truly an asset in the Sarasota and Manatee Counties region.”

CareerEdge was formed in 2009 by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency, the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice Inc., Bank of America and the Manatee County Action Agency. Mark Pritchett, Vice President of Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, Inc. serves as Co-Chairman and is charged with fiscal oversight of the initiative. Sherod Halliburton, Executive Director of the Bradenton Central CRA serves as the other Co-Chairman and is charged with oversight of the operations of the initiative.  CareerEdge is housed and operates out of the offices of the Bradenton Central CRA.  Other funders include Suncoast Workforce, SarasotaCounty, and Sarasota Newtown CRA.

“The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation are pleased to be an investor in CareerEdge,” said Damian Thorman, National Program Director for Knight Foundation and incoming chair of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. “The collaborative allows us to partner with other community stakeholders in Manatee and Sarasotacounties who are dedicated to moving low-wage individuals into careers with a living wage and to providing employers with access to the skilled labor they need. This local commitment builds on Knight Foundation’s investment in the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and in local collaborative’ in Detroit, Philadelphia and Wichita.”

Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said he’s thrilled that the Bradenton Central CRA is the first public entity to ever serve as a lead organization for a National Fund site. “That speaks to Bradenton’s commitment to participate in projects that develop the economic capacity of our residents and strengthens the region as a whole,” he added.

New Workforce Effort Seeks to Boost Wages

A new workforce collaborative announced the injection of more than $1.5 million in funding commitments to help move low-income workers in Manatee and Sarasota counties into higher paying jobs.

The Manatee Sarasota Workforce Funders Collaborative unveiled plans to focus initially on healthcare workers in the region. Healthcare was identified by leaders as one of the main growth industries in the region. Meredith Hector, program director for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

“We can really fill in some of the gaps if we do this right,” Hector said.

The workforce group pointed to a labor analysis showing that healthcare and social assistance industry comprises 15 percent of employment in Sarasota and 10 percent in Manatee.

The Knight Foundation, based in Miami, is injecting $1 million toward the workforce effort on its own. Mark Pritchett, vice president of community investment for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, noted that all of that money is outside capital, and not simply money raised locally which will be re-circulated in the community.

The Gulf Coast foundation will also provide $150,000 and provide oversight for the fiscal operations. The City of Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency is providing $200,000 to help bolster resource management

Local workforce group pushes for $450,000

By GRACE GAGLIANO – ggagliano@bradenton.com

The CareerEdge Funders Collaborative Manatee Sarasota spent Wednesday showcasing its plans to train workers for higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs to a group of national workforce officials.

The local organization wants to gain national designation from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, an accreditation that could bring $150,000 a year over the next three years for workforce training in the health care sector.

“Our mission is dedicated to moving low-wage workers into higher-paying jobs and getting employers the skilled workers they need,” said Mireya Eavey, director of CareerEdge. “At the end of the day, if we have a skilled workforce our employees will have more efficiency in the workplace.”

CareerEdge formed in October to help build a local talent pool for the health care industry. It has already secured more than $3 million from nine public and private investors.

The collaborative made its first distribution in April when it awarded five grants totaling $35,457 to local health care facilities.

Allyson Hostetler, a registered nurse at Tidewell Hospice, is one of 60 Tidewell nurses who is attending a training course on how to help patients with the physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs at the end of life.

“It’s an incredible opportunity and savings for us,” said Hostetler of the $19,350 grant that went to Tidewell. “This is giving us the education to have a better understanding of what the patient is going through. If we have a better understanding, the patient outcome is better.”

Fred Dedrick, executive director of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, will make a recommendation on the local chapter’s national designation at an investor meeting in September.

Aside from the funding CareerEdge could receive, Dedrick said the classification will give the local organization access to educational workshops and professional advising to move the group forward.

“I can see by today’s turnout how important this application is to you,” Dedrick said, of the estimated 50 business leaders in attendance. “We’re in the work of helping people find a career to support their families and that is incredibly important work. I request that you not think about it as a charity but think about CareerEdge as something that’s going to help build up your community to be successful.”

Read more: http://www.bradenton.com/2010/08/05/2483867/local-workforce-group-pushes-for.html#ixzz129e5EkWM