CareerEdge Awards Grants to Bring New Manufacturing Jobs to the Region

CareerEdge Funders Collaborative has awarded five grants totaling almost $150,000 to help Sarasota and Manatee manufacturers train workers in a number of key skill areas.  One grant in particular—to new area employer Air Products and Chemicals—has already had significant impact.

First identified by the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation in its continuing efforts to attract new employers to the region, Pennsylvania-based Air Products will bring about 250 new jobs to the region through its recent expansion to Manatee County.  CareerEdge joined the recruitment effort in conjunction with Manatee Technical Institute and Suncoast Workforce to provide the skills necessary to ensure Air Products’ successful relocation to the region.  CareerEdge’s initial grant to Air Products covers the training for 110 welders and 20 manufacturing technicians.

“One of Air Products’ main concerns was whether we would have the talent pool necessary to grow our business if we relocated to Manatee,” said Bill Jurena, plant manager for Air Products’ new facility.  “By bringing in CareerEdge, MTI, and Suncoast Workforce, 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.”

Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the Bradenton Area EDC, added, “Key workforce development partners are working together to provide the training and skilled workers necessary to meet the needs of Air Products, which will result in the creation of over 200 new high-wage jobs in the Bradenton area.  This is an example of collaboration at its best.”

CareerEdge also made grants to four other local manufacturing employers:  Radiant Power, Mustang Vacuum Systems, Eaton Aerospace, and KHS.  These training grants are focused in the areas of industrial electrics and supply chain management, and will train a total of 217 workers and save 110 jobs in the region.

“For over four years, Mustang Vacuum has struggled to get the necessary training to expand our highly specialized production, requiring a customized training plan,” said Brent McGary, purchasing and inventory manager at Mustang Vacuum Systems.  “CareerEdge has provided a flexible, holistic funding approach, which has been the catalyst for us to address long-overdue trainings that are essential to our growth.”

Together, the five employers have committed more than $800,000 of their own funds toward training their workers in partnership with CareerEdge.  The economic impact in the first year of the trainings is likely to be more than $4.6 million in new wages and wage increases to the local economy, according CareerEdge executive director Nathalie deWolf.

“The power of the CareerEdge model is that it lifts both the employers and the workforce,” said Mark Pritchett, senior vice president of Gulf Coast Community Foundation and co-chair of CareerEdge.  “We’re helping businesses in growth industries like manufacturing invest in their own people.  And the workers gain the skills they need for sustainable, career-path jobs.”

In addition, CareerEdge this month launched its Manufacturing Workforce Collaborative, a group whose mission is to help aggregate and communicate the skill needs of regional manufacturers.  That will give local education providers the information necessary to enhance their offerings in line with those needs.  The new collaborative also will support the manufacturing sector’s broader community-wide plan to raise awareness of the growing opportunities for manufacturing careers within the region.  For example, the group will promote internship, training, and job openings to facilitate entry into the manufacturing workforce, thereby narrowing the skills gaps it identifies.

“The current misperception about manufacturing is that it is repetitive, dirty, and lacking in real opportunity,” said CareerEdge’s deWolf.  “The reality couldn’t be further from that.  The growing areas of manufacturing in the U.S. and locally include a large portion of ‘advanced manufacturing,’ which provides significant opportunities for career advancement.”  The group aims to communicate to students and job-seekers what a career in manufacturing really means and show them how to step into that career by identifying the local vocational courses and jobs into which they feed.%uFEFF