Lumina Foundation has recognized Tampa Bay as one of the first “Talent Hubs” in Florida for its efforts to attract, retain and cultivate talent. The designation includes a $125,000 grant to the LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network, which is awarded in partnership with The Kresge Foundation, one of top 20 private foundations in the nation.

Being named a Talent Hub indicates that Tampa Bay has shown the capacity to work collaboratively toward a significant increase the number of residents with college degrees, certificates and other credentials beyond a high school diploma. Grant funds are earmarked for efforts to re-engage adult learners who started post-secondary education or training, but did not complete it.

“LEAP and its regional partners have done a phenomenal job laying the groundwork that resulted in this national designation,” said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. The City of Tampa is a LEAP founding partner. “Our administration is committed to increasing our workforce development,” said Mayor Castor, “and the Talent Hub designation and grant will certainly support our efforts in helping our residents attain the education and skills they need, which will in turn increase social and economic mobility for our entire community.”

An estimated 330,000 adults living in Tampa Bay have earned some credits but never completed their college degrees and/or credentialing programs, according to a 2017 American Community Survey. The Talent Hub grant will support re-enrolling those who already have credits, as well as efforts to create new opportunities and remove barriers for the region’s African American, Hispanic and low-income populations, which have historically experienced gaps in educational success.

LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network, a cross-sector network of 17 partners working to increase college access and attainment in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, is the lead organization on Lumina Foundation’s Talent Hub grant. LEAP’s vision aligns with the state’s “Sail to 60” goal for all of Florida, and the national “GOAL 2025” movement, all of which seek to have 60 percent of working-age adults holding such credentials and degrees by 2025. As of 2017, Tampa Bay’s two-county post-secondary attainment rate is 51.3%, which includes a statewide estimate of certificate completion that has been applied to the region.

“The demand for an educated, skilled workforce increases as the business community in Tampa Bay expands,” said Dr. Tonjua Williams, President of St. Petersburg College. “This new designation demonstrates that national leaders in educational attainment believe in Tampa Bay’s ability to share resources and expertise for the greater good of our vibrant community.”

Founding LEAP education partners Hillsborough Community College, St. Petersburg College, the University of South Florida and both Hillsborough and Pinellas school districts all had leaders playing a key role in completing the rigorous designation application, as did United Way Suncoast and the statewide entity Complete Florida.

In January 2020, Lumina announced the designation of four communities throughout the country as Talent Hubs. Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida and its FutureMakers Coalition are the first two Talent Hubs in Florida. There are now 26 Talent Hubs nationwide, ranging from New York City, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles to Richmond, Virginia, and Racine, Wisconsin.

“Talent Hubs are not just trying to be some of the best places to live, work, and learn,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president and CEO. “These communities also are taking today’s students and transforming them into tomorrow’s talent.”

Talent Hubs are part of Lumina’s $13 million community mobilization strategy, which focuses on local and regional efforts to increase attainment in ways that can inform other communities.

About LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network
LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network is a cross-sector network of 17 partners convened to promote their community-wide commitment to college access and attainment in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Using a collective impact model of collaboration, LEAP leadership will guide coordinated need-based strategies by partners from across business, education, government and non-profits, all geared at increasing attainment of high-quality college degrees and credentials to help build Tampa Bay’s workforce talent base. For more information, visit https://www.leaptampabay.org/.

About Lumina Foundation
Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. Lumina envisions a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. The foundation’s goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.

About The Kresge Foundation
The Kresge Foundation was founded in 1924 to promote human progress. Today, Kresge fulfills that mission by building and strengthening pathways to opportunity for low-income people in American cities, seeking to dismantle structural and systemic barriers to equality and justice. Using a full array of grant, loan, and other investment tools, Kresge invests more than $160 million annually to foster economic and social change. For more information, visit Kresge.org.

A group of people stand in front of a backdrop holding an oversized check for $100,000.Verizon and St. Petersburg College (SPC) announced a $100,000 grant funding for SPC’s African American Male Initiative to help close the achievement gap for African American males. SPC is committed to providing equity and access to education as a means of economic mobility for its community members and their families. This partnership will help equip individuals with the skills to effectively and responsibly navigate through today’s digital world which is key for success.

The official press conference announcement was held at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21 at SPC Midtown Center, Lobby, 1300 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg.

The African American Male Initiative will help to build strategic programming focused on tutoring, mentoring, digital literacy and technology workforce development to prepare students for meaningful careers in our digitized workforce.

“Collaboration is critical for improving student success and preparation,” said Dr. Joseph Smiley, SPC Dean of Social and Behavioral Science. “We are pleased to have Verizon partner with SPC in working to close the achievement gap and in preparing our students for meeting the workforce needs of the area and beyond.”

“Verizon remains steadfast in our commitment to bridging the digital divide in underserved communities,” said Michelle Robinson, Vice President-Government Affairs, Verizon. “Our mission is to broaden opportunities that prepare individuals for meaningful careers now and for generations to come.  We are proud to partner with SPC’s leadership toward this goal in the community.”

For more information, contact Jody Craig at craig.jody@spcollege.edu.

Thanks to some crafty students, staff and community members, a wildlife rescue organization in Australia will soon be receiving handmade joey pouches and hanging bags for orphaned koalas, kangaroos and wallabies in their care. The Animal Rescue Craft Guild and the local Florida Rescue Crafters Group recently put out a call for volunteers to help Australia by creating and sending much-needed items to help wildlife. Ethan Hart and Paula Knipp from the Tarpon Springs campus Learning Resources department found a way to get SPC students and the surrounding community involved.

Students in SPC’s Tarpon Springs Campus Environmental Club, along with the Tarpon Campus library staff, Women on the Way members, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art (LRMA) staff, and Marisa Meale from the Palm Harbor Library were on site to help cut patterns and fabric last Friday. The event was covered by FOX 13 News as part of what the Tampa Bay area is doing to help animals affected by the bushfires in Australia. Teresa Wilkins, Director of LRMA, served as a spokesperson for the event. LRMA also graciously hosted a fabric-cutting party over the weekend and their docents, along with volunteers at the nearby Palm Harbor Library, are assisting in sewing items.

The Natural Sciences department at the Tarpon Springs campus has been a huge supporter of this project, with many of their laboratory staff and faculty donating time and resources. Kelli Stickrath, faculty advisor for the Environmental Club, and Rosa Edwards-Harris were instrumental in getting students involved. The SPC Theater Program’s Costume Construction class is also assisting with sewing items, thanks to the support of Scott Cooper and Jonathan Barnes. A special thank you goes out to our sign artist Anna Tingley, and our SPC crafters Thao Nguyen, Bonnie Simmons and Amanda Bodie, who contributed both fabric and their sewing/crocheting skills.

joey bagsThe response has been so overwhelming that the group no longer needs fabric nor additional volunteers. The plan now is to get the items completed, boxed, and shipped out to Australia early next week.  If anyone wants to help contribute to the shipping costs, local members of the Florida Rescue Crafters have sent up a Gofundme page specifically for this project. Items will be sent to a small rescue in Victoria that houses and cares for orphaned kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats, bats, and other wildlife in the region, as well as an all-volunteer bat rescue in Melbourne dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of the endangered Grey Headed Flying Fox and other native Australian bats and wildlife.

CareerSource Hub grand openingSt. Petersburg College kicked off the grand opening of the new CareerSource Pinellas Center at the SPC Workforce Institute on Monday, January 13.

The grand opening celebration began at 8 a.m. at SPC’s EpiCenter in Largo, featuring several workshop sessions with topics ranging from resume development, a Workforce Institute information session and one focusing on the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act.

The new center, which is a partnership between SPC’s Workforce Institute and CareerSource Pinellas, offers career-planning services to the public, no matter their degree or current employment status. According to SPC Dean of Workforce Michael Ramsey, the Hub will be a one-stop shop for anyone hoping to either enter the workforce or gain new skills to advance their current career.

“Our partnership with CareerSource will help to ensure that individuals in our community receive the resources needed to overcome some of the barriers impeding them from completing education, and offer training programs that lead to greater economic mobility,” Ramsey said.

One service the center offers is helping people figure out a career track that suits them. Dennis Bajramj came to the grand opening for just that reason.

“I’m looking for career ideas,” he said as he gathered fliers on different programs offered through the Workforce Institute. “I’m hoping I can take a look at these and get some ideas.”

CareerSource Hub grand openingThe Center will also assist in job searches. They can help knock the dust off of an old resume or build a new one from scratch, as well as offer tips for interviewing and networking. Lou Polar is between jobs right now, and he came to the grand opening to take part in the workshop sessions.

“Over the years, I’ve taken courses through the Workforce Institute, and they’re always good, topical courses,” Polur said. “Now I feel like I need a strong resume for my job search, and I wanted to hear their advice.”

Ramsey believes that the grand opening event did a great job of showcasing the resources and supports made available by CareerSource Pinellas.

“We look forward to continuing to nurture this natural partnership to help improve the economic positions of our residents,” he said.

St. Petersburg College (SPC) is ranked in the top tier of Florida schools listed by U.S. News & World Report as the 2020 Best Online Programs for Veterans and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. The college placed second in both categories among Florida College System (FCS) institutions that participated in the rankings. In Florida, SPC was listed seventh for Best Online Programs for Veterans and eighth for Best in Online Bachelor’s Programs.

In the southern region, SPC ranked 16th for Best Online Programs for Veterans and 21st for Best in Online Bachelor’s Programs, according to U.S. News & World Report. Nationally, the college was listed 39th in the first category and 58th in the second.

“We are proud to be recognized for the work we’re doing to help our students thrive and find pathways to a brighter future,” said Dr. Tonjua Williams, SPC President. “These rankings reflect the dedication, passion and talent of our faculty and staff, who put our students and their success first.”

In the category Best Online Programs for Veterans, U.S. News & World Report recognized SPC for its affordable, accessible and reputable programming.

“At SPC we love our veteran students,” said SPC Veteran Affairs Coordinator Allison Shenofsky. “We understand the commitments of our nation’s military, and we work hard to continuously provide those brave men and women with quality education that is approved for study under their Active Military, Reserve/National Guard and GI Bill benefits. Our commitment is to our students’ success, and I’m so glad to see that we are being recognized as having been successful in this commitment!”

The ranking criteria for Best in Online Bachelor’s Programs included engagement, services and technology, faculty credentials and training, and expert opinion.

“Offering online courses for more than two decades, St Petersburg College continually searches for new ways to innovate, engaging students in the online classroom and providing a full range of online services to support students outside the classroom,” said Vicki Westergard, SPC Executive Director of Instructional Design and Development, Online Learning and Services. “We serve students who can’t come to campus due to distance, as well as local students who want to complete a degree on their own time, without having to put aside job, home and family.”

In September 2019, the college also announced it placed sixth among Florida public and private colleges that participated in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges study. SPC ranked 17th as a top public school in the southern colleges region. These are the highest-ranked public colleges and universities within its ranking category among 12 states in the regional south.

SPC also ranked 45th as a top performer on social mobility out of 84 schools in the southern region. This ranking highlights the college’s effort to advance economically disadvantaged students who are less likely than others to finish college.

On the ethnic diversity index, SPC scored .57 among public and private colleges in the southern region.



The SPC Workforce Institute has partnered with CareerSource Pinellas to assist individuals with their re-employment and training needs by opening a new CareerSource Center at the SPC EpiCenter.

The grand opening will be at 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 13 at the SPC EpiCenter, room 1-401, 13805 58 St. N., Clearwater. Throughout the day, community members can attend several free workshops including:

  • Resume Development at 10:15 a.m.
  • SPC Workforce Institute Information Session from noon at 1 p.m.
  • Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) Information Session at 1 p.m.

“The Workforce Hub will serve as a one-stop shop for people in the community seeking to either enter the workforce or obtain additional skills in order to advance within their current career field,” said SPC Dean of Workforce Michael Ramsey. “Our partnership with CareerSource will help to ensure that individuals in our community receive the resources needed to overcome some of the barriers impeding them from completing education, and training programs leading to greater economic mobility.”

“Workers and business are at the heart of CareerSource Pinellas,” said CareerSource Pinellas CEO Jennifer Brackney. “We are excited about the opportunity to enhance and expand workforce services that help to create a better-skilled workforce. This gives workers a clearer pathway to higher-paying jobs and businesses a more direct connection to a talent pipeline of qualified candidates.”

The new center will provide career planning services for professional and entry-level candidates. Some of the resources offered at the center will include career orientation, job search assistance, interview techniques, professional networking opportunities and more.

Hours of operation will be 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday.

To learn more about the SPC Workforce Institute’s short-term training and CareerSource resources, contact Sondra Seiter at seiter.sondra@spcollege.edu.

Flier for CareerSource Pinellas Center Grand Opening

Incubator ceremonyWith the Tampa Bay area being among the fastest-growing regions in the country and having the second-largest manufacturing base in Florida, St. Petersburg College is strengthening the talent pipeline by opening a new Workforce Hub at the Tarpon Springs Campus.

More than 40 community leaders attended the grand opening on Wednesday, Jan. 8. The Workforce Hub, located in the BB building on campus, will serve as a resource center for community members and students, providing support through workforce programs and GED training. Also, SPC partnered with CareerSource Pinellas to have a representative in the hub to meet the needs of the local labor force.

“This is a wonderful endeavor for our campus,” said SPC Tarpon Springs Campus Provost Rod Davis. “We’re been actively listening to the community and industry to align departments and services that will provide students with career opportunities.”

The Workforce Hub is just the beginning of a larger-scale project, The Industrial Workforce Business Incubator. This innovative expansion will allow SPC to increase its pipeline of graduates trained for high-skill, high-wage jobs. This will, in turn, close skills gaps for employers and help drive the regional economy. SPC has an appropriation request for the upcoming legislative session that will allow the college to fully implement and utilize the Workforce Hub, sponsored by House Representative Diamond, HB 9157 and Senator Hooper, Form 1917.

The incubator will home to programs such as:

  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Biomedical Technology
  • Cybersecurity
  • Information Technology

“This concept was developed by listening to our workforce leaders,” said SPC President Tonjua Williams. “Collaboratively, we envisioned the incubator as an opportunity for employers to work alongside our students to better prepare them for in-demand careers.”

The one-stop-shop incubator will feature state-of-the-art technology, adaptable co-workstations, cross-functional training spaces and more.

“Economic mobility and community engagement are two of the three foundational pillars for the college,” Williams said. “Through the support of Senator Hooper and Representative Diamond, the Workforce Hub aligns with the college’s vision and is the beginning of a stronger community, region and state.”

To learn more about the new Workforce Hub and the Industrial Workforce Business Incubator, contact Carissa Roldan at roldan.carissa@spcollege.edu.