CareerEdge Takes Part in SRQ Media Group SMARTgirl 2019!

SMARTgirl 2019-SRQ Media Group CareerEdge Sarasota 1 SMARTgirl 2019-SRQ Media Group CareerEdge Sarasota 2







Girl power took over the Hyatt Regency Sarasota this past Friday, March 15, as SRQ Media Group hosted its annual SMARTgirl Luncheon, inviting students from area schools and young women from local organizations like Girls Inc., the Girl Scouts, the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Clubs to meet and engage with volunteer mentors from organizations and businesses all across the region, for a day of women empowering women.

The half-day program began with attendees choosing which three mentors they would be spending the first part of the day with in the Dream Career Incubator. Nearly 30 volunteer mentors came from a wide range of professions, including Leymis Bolanos Wilmott of Sarasota Contemporary Dance and The Players’ Morgan Gerhart, Paige LeMay of Coastal Orthopedics and Jeannie Perales from Selby Gardens, entrepreneurs like Lee-En Chung of Ivy Ventures and nonprofit leaders like Kameron Hodgens of the Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center. “They are here today because they believe in the power of girls working together,” said SRQ Media CEO Lisl Liang. “They believe in you and in your dreams.”

And after a pair of workshops to flex attendees’ creative muscles and break the ice at the same time, the SMARTgirls entered the next room for a set of rotating mini-workshops, spending the next hour hopping from table to table to meet with their mentors and learn about the possibilities ahead of them.

It wouldn’t be a luncheon with lunch, and it wouldn’t be a SMARTgirl luncheon without inspiring speakers. While the mentors and mentees recharged and refilled, they heard from supporting sponsors like Mark Smith of The Ringling Museum and Roxie Jerde of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “I’m looking at a room of young leaders,” said Jerde. “Everyone in this room has the potential to impact a cause, another person and our community.” Britney Guertin of Visit Sarasota County took the podium next, further encouraging the young women of the audience to take their futures into their hands. “It’s not just about finding your career,” she said, “it’s about finding your passion.”

The luncheon ended with a special presentation from Bradenton’s own Blair Bloomston of Game On Nation, where she is considered a leading expert on the use of Game Dynamics and Game Theory to improve communications and team-building. With a focus on anti-bullying, she led the assembly through an interactive workshop, before reminding each in attendance of their own power, and responsibility, to be a leader in their community. “If you can see one,” Bloomston said, “you can be one.”

CLICK HERE for source article by SRQ Daily

Behind fast-track classes, group aims to solve labor shortage

Business Oberser CareerEdge

The labor shortage that plagues a variety of fields in the region has met a formidable foe: classes that get workers on the job — quickly.

by: Mark Gordon – Managing Editor – Business Observers

Walt Eppard fell into a technical career in the trades in the late 1950s while in the Air Force. The military said he couldn’t fly because he was colorblind. So he instead worked in aircraft maintenance and later technical writing.

Eppard eventually got into real estate development and ended up in Sarasota. His decades-long career ranges from a variety of shopping plazas to Waterlefe Golf & River Club, off the Manatee River in east Manatee County.

Now 86, Eppard is returning to his roots. He has a leading role in a series of classes to give people, mostly in their early 20s, a boost to get into the trades, starting with auto repair and HVAC installation.

While doing so, Eppard is helping CareerEdge, a unit of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, shape a new way to train the area’s tradespeople. The model? Create short, laser-focused curriculums and what the organization calls “fast track express programs” that are highly tailored to specific employer needs. The employers that work with the program, in a first for CareerEdge, vet and interview the students, then hire them after the classes.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and this has been the most exciting program we’ve had where we really connected with the donor,” says Mireya Eavey, chief workforce officer for the chamber, who oversees CareerEdge. “It’s different than anything we’ve done before.”

The fast-track programs are essentially a triangle: Eppard, through the Eppard Family Foundation, provides funds for tuition and other costs, so students attend for free. The second side is CareerEdge, which runs the program and student enrollment. The third side is area companies, including Ultimate Air, Cool Today, Del-Air and Johnstone Supply, which all donated equipment and worked with Eavey and Eppard on the curriculum.

In turn, these classes address what many executives of companies in the trades say is their core obstacle to growth: finding, hiring and retaining skilled tradespeople.

Jeff Markey, founder and owner of Sarasota-based Ultimate Air, in business locally since 1959, says these fast-track classes don’t compete with other local classes or curriculums that lead to an associate’s degree or something similar. While those are fine, Markey says the need for air conditioner installers is immediate, and the lack of enough good ones presents a significant impact on generating revenue. “This isn’t vocational training,” says Markey. “It’s very heavy on (on-the-job) teaching skills, and there are few, if any, textbooks.”

The first fast-track program through the Eppard-CareerEdge partnership was held last summer, for auto mechanics. Human resources officials from eight area dealerships helped write the training curriculums, while Eppard paid for tuition for 32 students. Those students, who came to the 11-week classes, held on weekends and nights at Suncoast Technical College in Sarasota, with no auto mechanic experience, were then offered jobs at area dealerships. The pay started at $12 an hour, with chances for raises quickly by meeting performance goals.

“Some of these students were working at McDonald’s and Walmart before this,” Eppard, “so this is a big step up for them.”

The HVAC fast-track classes got an even better response. Some 450 people applied for 12 spots in the inaugural HVAC fast-track session, which began Jan. 22 and runs through April. Employees of the partnering HVAC companies teach the classes, held at Manatee Technical College. Those teachers show the students how to install a unit, then watch them do it. Bridges to Careers, CareerEdge’s soft skills training, is incorporated into the beginning and ending of the training.

Like Markey and Eavey, Eppard laments the lost art of hands-on training for people to get decent-paying jobs where they use their hands. With the early success so far, Eppard anticipates adding some other disciplines, from plumbing to drywall installation.

“I’ve been aware of the need and thinking about doing something like this for a while,” Eppard says. “Real estate has been good to me, and I’m at a point in my life financially where I can really help.”

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Workforce Development Nonprofit Offers New Auto Technician Training

CareerEdge Funders Collaborative is again partnering with four dealerships to provide a fast-track path to becoming an automotive technician.

The workforce development nonprofit CareerEdge Funders Collaborative is again partnering with four automotive dealerships to provide a free fast-track path to becoming an automotive technician. The training program runs 4-8 p.m. Monday and Wednesday evenings at Suncoast Technical College, 4748 S. Beneva Road, Sarasota, beginning Monday, April 8, and continuing through Monday, June 24. Participating employers include Gettel Automotive, Sunset Automotive Group, Peterson Toyota of Sarasota and Wilde Automotive.

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CareerEdge Brings Region to the Forefront of Innovation with U.S. Chamber Partnership

SARASOTA, Fla. (March 1, 2019) —The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has chosen CareerEdge Funders Collaborative under the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, along with their partners, to pioneer an innovative workforce solution that uses technology to develop open source job descriptions, which will improve employers’ ability to source talent.

As part of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s year long Job Data Exchange (JDX) Pilot Project, CareerEdge will work with PGT Innovations and Four Winds Network Services to begin utilizing open data tools and resources to make manufacturing job information clearer and more accessible for education providers, our local workforce and employers.

Participation in this pilot offers access to the latest technology and advances CareerEdge’s near decade of work in connecting employers and partners to create regional workforce solutions. Translating job data to open data will create a universal language for employer signaling, allowing education, training and credentialing partners to create more effective career pathway infrastructure. With improved job descriptions, educators can tailor curriculum, job candidates can more effectively prepare and employers’ needs can be better met, lending to the overall success of the region.

CareerEdge, PGT Innovations and Four Winds Network Services will focus on working with the manufacturing industry for this pilot.

“PGT Innovations is proud to partner on this pilot program for this important national initiative through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation,” said Debbie LaPinska, PGT Innovations Sr. Vice President of Human Resources. “Our team looks forward to working with local organizations, such as the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, and contributing and collaborating our voice with other marketplace stakeholders and influencers to assist with this resourceful enterprise.”

CareerEdge and its partners constitute one of seven Pilot Partner Teams across the country selected for this pilot and represent the only team in the southeast. Collectively, the seven pilot partner teams are made up of education and training providers, employers, HR professionals and HR technology vendors representing the healthcare, defense, utilities, energy and manufacturing industries.

More information on JDX is available here.


About CareerEdge Funders Collaborative

CareerEdge is an innovative partnership of business, government, and philanthropic organizations that leverages public and private dollars to provide opportunities for better jobs and wages in Manatee and Sarasota counties.  For more information about CareerEdge and its partners, please visit or call 941.556.4029.


CareerEdge Hires Donahue as Program Manager


CareerEdge Funders Collaborative Hires Donahue as Program Manager



CareerEdge Funders Collaborative has hired Shauna Donahue as program manager to help manage workforce development initiatives, internal and external communications, grant administration, manage business and partner relationships and coordinate special projects related to CareerEdge Funders Collaborative.

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SARASOTA — Free training and guaranteed jobs are available in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry, thanks to CareerEdge, Manatee Technical College, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and participating companies.

Graduates of the free, four-evenings-a-week classes at the college are guaranteed jobs with the participating employers at an average starting wage of $15 per hour, according to a CareerEdge news release.

The condensed version of the college’s HVAC Technician program resulted from CareerEdge meetings organized to determine the industry’s workforce needs.

The tuition-free, 225-hour training class will begin Jan. 22 and run through March, with classes from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday at MTC’s main campus at 6305 State Road 70, in Manatee County. The program will include CareerEdge’s Bridges to Careers soft-skills training and Occupational Safety and Health Administration and CPR training.

To be eligible, applicants must have clean background and drug checks, a valid driver’s license, and the ability to lift 75 pounds and work in hot attics. No technical experience is required. Those interested in participating will need to apply for the program and be screened by the college and employers.

Local companies participating include Aqua plumbing, B & I, Artic Air, Air Service of Manasota Inc., DEL-AIR, Conditioned Air, MACCA and Veteran Air. Cool Today, Badger Bob’s, DEL-AIR and Ultimate Air are providing materials and teaching. Read More


CareerEdge Receives Funding for Fast-Track Training Programs

CareerEdge Receives Funding for Fast-Track Training Programs



CareerEdge has received a $150,000 grant from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, in partnership with the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, to implement “express” or fast-track training programs in high-demand occupations. This grant aims to build on and scale effective practices for training, placing and advancing low-income and low-skilled workers. Major goals of this grant-funded project include: minimize industry skill gaps, assist unemployed, low-wage and low-skill workers in obtaining employment at livable and competitive wages (150 anticipated to be served), help individuals obtain national and state industry certifications and training, assist regional industry employers meet their workforce needs and expand their businesses and grow the regional economy through meeting the supply/demand-side of workforce.

This model was recently piloted by CareerEdge in the trades sector. CareerEdge partnered with employers, post-secondary institutions and community-based organizations to provide short-term training programs in skilled trade occupations for both entry-level incumbent workers and low-skill job seekers. As part of the express program, employers offer ongoing work-based learning opportunities to further develop the graduates. Technical fast-track programs include Electrical, Plumbing, HVAC, Broadband, Machining and Automotive Technicians. Express certifications include manufacturing certificates such as CNC machining, Six Sigma, MSSC, CPT, Plumbing Helper, etc. Graduates of the job seeker programs will be placed directly with employers in full-time paid positions with benefits.

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Grant to Help Create Fast-Track Job Training Programs

The National Fund for Workforce Solutions recently awarded the workforce development nonprofit CareerEdge Funders Collaborative a $150,000 grant.  The National Fund for Workforce Solutions recently awarded the workforce development nonprofit CareerEdge Funders Collaborative a $150,000 grant to create fast-track training programs in high-demand occupations. Some of the goals of the project include minimizing industry skill gaps; helping unemployed, low-wage and low-skill workers obtain livable wages; helping individuals obtain certifications and training; and more. Read more

Employee shortage in insurance industry prompts interviews and roundtables with employers

CareerEdge study delves into how insurance industry in Sarasota/Manatee area can attract workers.

Construction, health care and manufacturing aren’t the only industries with worker shortages. The insurance industry is feeling it, too.

A new study by Sarasota-based CareerEdge Funders Collaborative addresses that issue, examining jobs and skills needed for area insurance companies to grow and meet the talent shortage head-on.

The study was put together using data from phone interviews and in-person roundtables with employers. One area employer that participated, for instance, has 60 job openings.

Mireya Eavey, chief workforce officer for The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, tells Coffee Talk many of the insurance companies that participated in the study are competitors. “They came together because they realize they have to work together to address this shortage of workers,” she says.

One key finding from talks with employers is students don’t understand insurance. “We have to change the story in schools,” Eavey says.

To do that, some rebranding of the industry and the available careers is in order. “The biggest thing is rebranding — highlighting this industry of good-paying jobs,” she says.

Employers also conveyed they want to be more involved in developing higher education programs about insurance. “Employers are eager to be part of the solution,” Eavey says. “The programs we currently have aren’t exactly what we need.”

The next step is presenting the findings to educators from a variety of educational entities, from Sarasota County Schools to State College of Florida. “We look at this as an opportunity for them,” Eavey says. “Educators are eager to have programs that fit the needs.”

After educator feedback is collected, a communitywide plan will be developed with specific action steps. The process is similar to one CareerEdge successfully followed for the manufacturing industry.


The Great Collaborator on Workforce Development

Sarasota County just received a presentation of the 2018 Citizen’s Survey. Survey participants were asked what they thought could be the single biggest contributor to the county’s economic growth. The top answer was “Workforce Training or Re-Training”. Luckily, we have a wonderful resource here in Sarasota County that was started by Gulf Coast Community Foundation and is now appropriately housed with the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
CareerEdge has been an innovator in labor training and meeting the workforce needs of the private sector since 2010. Having trained close to 5,000 workers and having had 2,845 workers earn raises as a direct result of their work, it is an administratively small workforce powerhouse that turns on a dime to meet the needs of our employers.

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