$150,000 Awarded to Train 217 Workers in Needed Skills

The biggest of those grants went to Air Products and Chemicals, which is gearing up to make giant liquid natural gas conversion devices in Manatee County, near Port Manatee.

CareerEdge also made grants to four other existing manufacturers in the region: Radiant Power, Mustang Vacuum Systems, Eaton Aerospace and KHS.

The grants, the nonprofit noted, will train 217 workers and save 110 jobs in Southwest Florida.

Pennsylvania-based Air Products plans an eventual payroll of 250 or more in Manatee County — with an average wage above the county’s median — and has begun hiring welders and other skilled workers.

CareerEdge joined the worker recruitment effort, in conjunction with the Manatee Technical Institute and the Suncoast Workforce Board, to provide the skills necessary to ensure Air Products’ successful move to the region.

“One of Air Products’ main concerns was whether we would have the talent pool necessary to grow the business if we relocated to Manatee,” said Bill Jurena, plant manager for Air Products’ new facility.

“We were able to get assistance with access and funding for the necessary training resources to begin developing the welding skills necessary to meet our needs.”

CareerEdge’s grant to Air Products covers training for 110 welders and 20 manufacturing technicians.

“This is an example of collaboration at its best,” said Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation.

Grant recipient Mustang Vacuum makes highly specialized machinery that can put shiny chrome coatings on plastic parts.

“For over four years, Mustang Vacuum has struggled to get the necessary training to expand our highly specialized production,” said Brent McGary, purchasing and inventory manager at the company.

The grant from CareerEdge “has been the catalyst” for Mustang to develop long-delayed training programs essential to its growth, he said.

CareerEdge this month launched the Manufacturing Workforce Collaborative, a group whose mission is to help keep track of the skills that the region’s manufacturers need.

The group also plans to communicate with workers about what training may be required for specific jobs and help them obtain those positions.

Already, Sarasota County Technical Institute has used a CareerEdge study to identify a countywide need for machinists. It also used CareerEdge data to lobby Sarasota County officials to fund new classes.

“The current misperception about manufacturing is that it is repetitive, dirty and lacking in real opportunity,” said Nathalie deWolf, executive director of CareerEdge. “The reality couldn’t be further from that.”