A beaming Brad Jenkins at the opening of the Collaborative Center for Emerging Technologies in August, 2012
Not many people get the liberty to develop a manufacturing training facility and show it off to the federal Secretary of Labor.
Brad Jenkins did just that in September 2012, when U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis visited the Clearwater Campus to announce $500 million worth of federal workforce training grants.
As part of her visit, Solis toured the $1.2 million Collaborative Center for Emerging Technologies, a training facility that Jenkins helped develop as an open manufacturing factory and work environment. The building is the crowning achievement of Jenkins’ 40-year career at St. Petersburg College.
Jenkins will retire this month and be honored at the Board of Trustees meeting Jan. 20.
“Forty years is a long time,” said Jenkins, who began his career at SPC as a full-time instructor and is departing as Associate Dean of the Engineering Technology and Building Arts Department. “I’ve got my fingerprints on a lot of things.”
Meeting the needs of the manufacturing industry
Since Jenkins was named program director of Engineering Technology and Building Arts in 1979, more than 1,800 students have earned certificates and degrees under him.
Over the past three years, enrollment in manufacturing programs at SPC has climbed 20% thanks in part to federal and state workforce training grants the college has received.
The workforce grants and training at the CCET help meet a growing skills gap that leaves thousands of manufacturing jobs unfilled each year. Through the career training program announced by Secretary Solis, St. Petersburg College and partnering colleges received a $15 million grant to build the Florida TRADE Consortium, a statewide training system for advanced manufacturing jobs in high demand.
Over the years, manufacturing has evolved dramatically and now relies heavily on advanced technologies and automation, requiring specialized training. Jenkins wanted such training to take place in the CCET with “everything out in the open like an actual manufacturing floor” so it was realistic. He was given carte blanche to build and equip the workforce training center as he saw fit.
“Can you believe I got that chance?” quipped Jenkins. “Not many people get that sort of deal. We’ve got a unique situation here that worked out pretty well.”
Now, companies frequently visit the CCET, as they look to relocate to the Tampa Bay area and train a new workforce. The name, Collaborative Center for Emerging Technologies, was inspired by the large role the college plays in working with employers.
“I looked at a lot of other facilities in the state that had advanced manufacturing in the name, but this made more sense because we work so closely with industry and local partners,” said Jenkins, who has also built working relationships with the National Science Foundation.
In fact, Jenkins served as co-principal investigator for two NSF grant initiatives: the Florida Advanced Technological Education (FLATE) Center and the Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM). While at SPC, he also helped secure and administer nine other major workforce training grant programs from various agencies.
Jenkins was named the 2012 Educator of the Year by the National High Impact Technology Exchange Association for his work on developing SPC’s Associate of Science degree in Engineering Technology. The first of its kind in Florida, the degree serves as a national model and has been adopted by 10 other colleges in the state.
“The higher education community across the state as well as business and industry leaders respect Brad as one of the premier technology educators,” said Clearwater Provost Stan Vittetoe. “His work has ranged from telecommunications to manufacturing and biomedical electronics. He has been at the forefront of technology education for many years, and has been recognized by national organizations for his contributions in this area. In addition to his teaching responsibilities Brad has led numerous state and federal grants on behalf of the college and has insured that SPC would remain on the leading edge of technology.”
Through his extensive industry connections, Jenkins has personally helped dozens of students land jobs. To Jenkins, giving people real skills is what makes the difference and has made his time at SPC so gratifying.
“You feel like you are giving somebody something to live on, that’s much better than $8 an hour,” Jenkins said. “You give them a career and a way to advance. You won’t necessarily make $20 an hour right when you leave us, but you will have the skills to work your way up.”
In retirement, Jenkins looks forward to spending more time with his grandchildren. His first granddaughter was born six months ago to a family that is vastly outweighed by boys, by a measure of 8 to 1.
He also plans to travel and continue his work with the NSF to bring more colleges into the fold of grants and workforce training programs.
“Brad took me under his wing when I first started with the college five years ago,” said Gary Graham, director of the Florida TRADE Consortium. “We both had a manufacturing background and were able to speak “manufacturing”. He is a wonderful colleague, mentor, and friend. SPC will miss his tremendous knowledge and expertise.”
Jenkins prior to the opening of the CCET
Jenkins discusses details of the opening of the CCET with Florida Colleges Chancellor Randy Hanna.
Jenkins demonstrates a 3-D printing model with former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
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