As baby boomers, the largest American generation to date, begin retiring, they are leaving looming gaps in the workforce. The departures have drawn media attention to the growing number of openings in the Tampa Bay area for public servants, specifically in public safety, policy and utilities.
In the City of St. Petersburg, for instance, nearly a quarter of the police force is currently eligible to retire. And when veteran officers leave, they take institutional knowledge with them.
St. Petersburg College is working closely with cities, counties, municipalities and companies to train and expose its students to the diversity of jobs available in the public utilities, public safety and public policy sectors.
SPC Career Exploration Event
Recently, more than 100 people attended SPC’s Public Utilities Career Exploration event at the Seminole Campus, where they learned about current and future career openings, training requirements, salaries and scholarship opportunities.
The annual career exploration event began a few years ago with a focus on job opportunities for students in SPC’s A.S. degree program in environmental science, but has expanded to include public policy students. The college eventually plans to hold the event twice a year and include students in information technology.
“The event illustrates a strong partnership between educators and local industries to inform students and the public of career opportunities in our region,” said Jason Krupp, director of Workforce Services for SPC. “It is very rewarding to help connect students with real opportunities in a sector they may not have considered otherwise.”
Job openings in public utilities
One of the most diverse departments in any municipality, public utilities positions range from mechanics and equipment operators to lab techs, biologists and chemists to accountants, marketers and attorneys. In St. Petersburg, Water Resources is the city’s largest operation and provides potable water distribution, wastewater (sewage) collection, treatment and disposal, and reclaimed water for irrigation purposes to city residents.
“Because water is a limited natural resource with increasing demand and regulation, there is a strong future need for skilled workers in public utilities,” Krupp said.
City of Seminole to hire SPC public policy students
Seminole City Manager Frank Edmunds recognized this need and recently announced an agreement with SPC to hire one SPC public policy student or graduate each year for the next 10 years. This agreement is a testament of the high-quality instruction and career preparation provided by SPC faculty and staff.
The trainee will work their way through four departments: administration, public safety, community development and public works, to receive exposure to and specialized experience in the various areas of city government.
Public safety training
Over at SPC’s Allstate Center, students can enter a training academy to become a police or corrections officer or firefighter, move up in their career by earning an academic degree or take mandatory and specialized training available for emergency and first responders, military personnel, public safety, emergency management and judicial professionals and even the general public.