MANATEE-SARASOTA COUNTIES, FL (June 13, 2013) – The Sarasota County Commissioners have voted unanimously to fund up to $350,000 worth of equipment for a precision machining course to be launched at Sarasota County Technical Institute (SCTI). The decision is another successful milestone in a community-wide plan to plug manufacturing skill gaps in our region.
That plan, spearheaded by CareerEdge, has brought together key community players, including the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, Suncoast Workforce, Sarasota County Government, the Sarasota County School Board, SCTI, and the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. Their goal is to put more area residents to work while filling vacant positions within the manufacturing sector. In approving the funding for SCTI, the county commissioners commended the community-wide team on their collaboration, adding that they hoped it would become a model for future public-private partnerships working to solve problems in our community.
The Sarasota County Manufacturing Plan of Action was launched after a skills-gap study commissioned by CareerEdge showed that, despite high unemployment levels in the region, manufacturers still had trouble finding skilled workers necessary to grow their businesses. “This was clearly an unacceptable bottleneck,” said CareerEdge Executive Director Nathalie deWolf. “At a summit we held last year to release the skills-gap study results, one manufacturer said he had as much as 30 percent pent-up demand for his product, but he simply did not have the skilled labor necessary to fill those orders.”
As a result, several community organizations came together to create a collaborative solution. One of the four key components of their plan is improving educational programs to meet the training needs of employers and workers.
Leveraging the county grant for the SCTI program, CareerEdge has committed $25,000 for equipment, while the curriculum itself was devised by SCTI Director Todd Bowden in conjunction with an advisory board of manufacturing-sector employers. This employer-educator collaboration ensures that what is being taught is really what students need to be effective in the workplace.
In addition, manufacturers will continue to work alongside the school to create internship, apprenticeship, and job opportunities for program participants. The School Board, for its part, has also committed to five-year funding for the program, while the EDC, Suncoast Workforce, and the Sarasota Chamber are working with the Sarasota-Manatee Manufacturers Association to raise awareness.