Archive for the ‘Technology & Management’ Category

Exploratory LabA collaborative career development program known as the Exploratory Lab Boot Camp has been named Best Student Program of the Year by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF).

The program, designed to generate well-rounded, highly skilled IT workers for Tampa Bay employers, is a joint venture between TechData, Valpak, Agile Thought, St. Petersburg College, University of South Florida St. Petersburg and TBTF.

The partnership and boot camp arose from a 2012 information technology skills gap analysis conducted by Pat Gehant, Director of Workforce Initiative at TBTF. That study showed that Tampa Bay area technology companies are facing a critical shortage of qualified personnel to fill open jobs. The boot camp program is creating a pipeline of skilled employees to meet the needs of local businesses.

“The exploratory lab is a way for us to formalize and structure an overlay program to what the students are learning in school and expose students to all the different types of skills necessary in the technology industry,” said Angie Beltz, Vice President for Cisco Solutions Group at Tech Data. “The other piece is to really ensure there is a good connection between these students and businesses in the Tampa Bay area that will help keep the students here and working after they graduate.”

Among the 43 graduates from two sessions held this year, 78% of them seeking a job or internship were hired as interns or for new jobs by Tech Data, Agile Thought, Raymond James, Ernst & Young, local start-up Lets Share Value, and an international company in Thailand. Some students returned to existing jobs seeking promotions and others returned to school with a new purpose.

“The ability to strengthen our programs to better meet the needs of world-class employers is fundamental to our vision of success for our students,” said SPC President Bill Law. “The Exploratory Lab Boot Camp is a great example of creative partnerships that move education out of the classroom and into the real world.”

“Angie Beltz, Pat Gehant, the Tampa Bay Technology Forum and St. Petersburg College have done an excellent job of leading the Exploratory Lab Boot Camp,” said James Connolly, director of the Workforce Institute at SPC. “By combining Industry needs with innovative educational strategies, we have been able to increase the preparedness of the student to enter the workforce.”

To be eligible for the free 70-hour program, participants must be enrolled at one of the partnering institutions: St. Petersburg College and St. Petersburg College Workforce Institute, USF, University of Tampa, Eckerd College or Stetson College of Law. Students do not have to be enrolled in an IT area of study to apply.

Work is under way to develop a sustainable business model that includes a collaboration between five to six companies to deliver the curriculum in May 2016. Tech Data also will assist in mentoring other companies to deliver the curriculum and plans to offer a third session of the boot camp in June 2016.

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IMG_2885 (8 of 10)-X3Skills gaps in two of the primary industries in the Tampa Bay region are presenting opportunities for area students.

Since 2012, two separate studies have identified a dearth of skilled employees in the manufacturing and information technology fields. Meanwhile, the need is growing as the Tampa Bay area continues to add post-recession jobs in these two fields.

In 2013, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties housed more than 2,000 manufacturers with a total income contribution of nearly $9 million. With each new manufacturing job comes the creation of an additional 2.65 jobs, causing a ripple-effect on job creation.

Pinellas has the second largest base of manufacturing employment in Florida. The region, home to corporate headquarters or major plants for manufacturing giants such as Gerdau Ameristeel and Honeywell International, continues to grow. Meanwhile, Florida ranks among the top ten states for manufacturing, providing the opportunity for mobility for skilled manufacturers.

Tampa Bay has also become a hotbed of IT companies, including Jabil Circuit, Microsoft and Tech Data. It’s projected that IT job growth will outpace total occupation job growth in the area through 2019. In the Tampa Bay area, IT generates $16 billion in Gross Domestic Product each year.

Like the manufacturing industry, the trend in the Tampa Bay area mimics statewide growth. Florida currently ranks third in the nation for high-tech companies, offering myriad options for professional growth.

Meeting manufacturing, tech employer needs

St. Petersburg College is helping to meet the needs of local employers and the underemployed by preparing students for jobs in these two primary industries. More than half of the college’s fall 2014 graduates came from workforce programs designed to give them the skills and certifications needed to be highly employable in high-wage fields.

“It’s critical for our students and our community as a whole that our efforts at St. Petersburg College are aligned with the needs of local industry,” said Jason Krupp, SPC’s Director of Workforce Services. “Through a renewed focus on workforce programs, certifications and internships, we are preparing our students to enter the workforce more quickly and better prepared than ever before.”

Increasing numbers of students are graduating with industry-recognized IT certifications such as CISCO CCNA, JAVA, A+, Net+, Solid Works and SQL Server.

Debbie Frisch, a database professional and SPC graduate of the Tampa Bay Hi-Tech Training (HITT) Program in SQL Server said the training she received at St. Petersburg College helped her land a new job as a Marketing Data Specialist at Bright House Networks.

“I am very excited about the job, it seems to be a perfect fit for me,” Frisch said. “The HITT program is a wonderful opportunity and I was so lucky to be able to be involved in it.”

Frisch’s supervisor, Karen Nissen, said that having an employee with SQL knowledge “will add value to our team as our organization is moving toward being more data driven.”

“Being able to query on our data warehouse to get answers to complex questions is what we were looking for in a new employee, and Debbie’s drive to acquire additional SQL skills will ensure she is successful in these tasks,” said Nissen, Marketing Intelligence Manager for Bright House Networks.

Exploratory Lab Boot Camp

The college continues to respond to the needs of local industry. This spring, the college – along with partners Tech Data, Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF), Valpak and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg – launched the Exploratory Lab Boot Camp, a program to give students real-time, real-life exposure to technology skills sought by local companies. The program will help students from any area of academic study pursue the training they need to find high-wage, highly sought jobs.

“The Exploratory Lab is a great example of business and university leadership partnering together to create a unique learning experience that exposes students to the vast tech opportunities in the Tampa Bay area,” said Chris Cate, Vice Chair TBTF, and CIO of Cox Target Media/Valpak.

At the end of the week-long boot camp students will go straight into interviews for jobs and internships with Tech Data, a wholesale distributor of technology products headquartered in Pinellas County.

“Tech Data is excited about the opportunity to be part of a collaborative effort with leaders in the Tampa Bay area and to create best-in-class curriculum and collateral for the Exploratory Lab Boot Camp,” said Angie Beltz, Vice President of Product Marketing for the Cisco Solutions Group at Tech Data. “We find this initiative very important because we are exposing non-Technology degree (students) to the opportunities in the technology industry, as well as reinforcing the skills necessary to be qualified for jobs at a company like Tech Data.”

Advanced manufacturing training

St. Petersburg College also provides short-term training programs in advanced manufacturing to prepare students for high-demand jobs in today’s technology-driven manufacturing market.

Through the Florida TRADE Consortium, more than 80 SPC students earned certifications in the fall of 2014 in areas including production technician (MSSC-CPT), CNC operator (NIMS), mechatronics worker (PMMI), computer aided design professional (Solidworks Professional) and safety (OSHA 30).

“These short-term certification programs are game changers,” Krupp said. “We’re putting students on a fast track to employment and providing local employers with skilled staff, now, when they need it. It’s a true win-win.”

(Sources: Enterprise Florida, www.enterpriseflorida.com; Pinellas County Economic Development, www.pced.org; Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, floridajobs.org; Tampa Bay Business Journal, www.bizjournals.com/tampabay; St. Petersburg College, www.spcollege.edu)



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Tampa Bay Times coverage

Bay News 9’s coverage

To help strengthen the skills of Tampa Bay’s future workforce, St. Petersburg College will award $520,000 in scholarships through a National Science Foundation grant to academically talented and financially disadvantaged students who pursue degrees in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math.

The initiative will support students as they earn a degree and find employment in STEM fields. The grant will target women and minorities, who have been historically underrepresented in those areas. The program, called Tampa Bay SEEDS (Scholarships for Education & Employment Development in STEM) will also help fill a crucial gap in skilled workers in the Tampa Bay area, Florida and the United States.

“This grant demonstrates SPC’s deep commitment to accessible, learner-centered instruction and STEM education,” said President Bill Law. “The program will ensure a diverse applicant pool for potential STEM scholars at our college. It is very exciting for me personally because the project harmonizes with a student success initiative called The College Experience.”

Through the grant, students will engage in The College Experience by using integrated academic and career advising, tutoring centers, a project-specific orientation and career mentoring. Over the five-year grant, 80 students will be selected to take an employment-centered curriculum that includes job shadowing and internships. Students will work with newly created Campus Faculty Champions, who will give each student a “road map to graduation.” Using this road map, students will identify academic goals, determine which academic support services they need and investigate STEM careers.

“St. Petersburg College is to be commended on its efforts to help students achieve success through a higher education in STEM,” wrote Abdul Lateef, chief executive officer for local manufacturing firm Plasma-Therm, in a letter of support for the project. “This one project could have a lasting impact on the Tampa Bay region and help prepare future workers for high-demand careers in STEM.”

At the state level, Florida will need 120,000 new STEM workers by 2018, according to the Florida Department for Economic Opportunity. In addition, Enterprise Florida estimates that 15 out of the 20 fastest growing job fields in the state will require a STEM education.

Locally, a study commissioned in 2011 by the Tampa Bay Partnership projects that job growth in the high technology electronics and instruments industry and marine and environmental industries will grow by 10% by 2020, resulting in 22,000 new jobs. This report also notes there are 19 billion-dollar corporate headquarters in the Tampa Bay area, with four being Fortune 500 companies. Recently, several national technology companies have located facilities in the area and need an educated workforce with STEM skills.

“We are keenly aware of the worrisome shortage of new graduates entering the workforce in the STEM fields,” said Ed Peachey, president and CEO of CareerSource Pinellas. “We are pleased that as students in the Tampa Bay region look to transition to an institution of higher learning, they will find an abundance of STEM training and degree opportunities at St. Petersburg College. For years, SPC has demonstrated its commitment to STEM and to helping attract a diverse group of students.”

SPC will bring its prior experience with STEM scholarship programs to bear, since it has ten years’ experience with similar National Science Foundation grants and initiatives. For example, from 2007 to 2011, Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S-STEM) were awarded to 152 students, exceeding the project’s goal of 100.

The $6,500 individual scholarships will be available beginning Spring 2015.



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IMG_1122Recently, St. Petersburg College students in CISCO Certified Network Associates classes got the chance to tour Tech Data as part of the college’s Tampa Bay High-Tech Technology Program.

With the help of Collegewide Internship Coordinator Susan Biszewski-Eber, Career Outreach Specialist Rosaria Pipitone set up a tour of the Tech Data facility. The vice president of Tech Data Services, Bill Brooks, also played an active role in reaching out to the college since he had a “strong interest in partnering with a community college such as SPC.”

Pipitone, along with Michael Gordon, CISCO Instructor at SPC, and the CCNA students were given a tour of the CISCO labs at Tech Data and had hands-on experience working with the equipment.

They also had the opportunity to experience a simulated work environment where they were able to deal with customers over the phone.

Students learned that they “don’t have to be locked into one area of technology, but there are a host of opportunities that Tech Data has to offer,” said Pipitone. In the end, there was a Question-and-Answer session with a former SPC student who now works for Tech Data.

Overall, Pipitone said that the experience was designed to “offer hope to those who are unemployed and open their perception to the working world.”

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott at St. Petersburg College Monday

On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott was joined by St. Petersburg College President William D. Law Jr. and Brad Jenkins, SPC Associate Dean of Engineering Technology & Building Arts, to announce the “Governor’s $10,000 Degree Challenge.”

At the press conference, Dr. Law announced that St. Petersburg College would be the first Florida college to accept Scott’s challenge to create a $10,000 degree program targeted at making higher education more affordable and results-oriented for Florida families.

Scott said, “I am issuing a challenge to our state colleges to find innovative ways to offer a bachelor’s degree at a cost of just $10,000 in fields that will provide graduates with the best opportunity for employment. As I travel the state, families tell me that they care about three things – getting a good job, a quality education and enjoying a low cost of living. As a former community college student myself, I know how important it is for us to keep costs low while working to connect students with degree fields that prepare them for great careers. Working with the Florida Legislature, this ‘$10,000 Degree Challenge’ will help us continue to improve the value of our higher education system for Florida families and we are pleased that St. Petersburg College is the first school to step up to the plate.”

Law said, “St. Petersburg College is once again excited about the opportunity to be part of a statewide college pilot program that lowers the cost of a college education for the citizens we serve. Affordable education always has been at the forefront of the college’s mission. SPC is uniquely positioned to build on its bachelor degree commitments and will be offering its Tech Management Program.”

Deveron Gibbons, Chair of St. Petersburg College’s Board of Trustees, said, “As the first community college in the state to offer four-year degrees, St. Petersburg College is thrilled to be part of a pilot program that lowers the cost of a bachelor’s degree for Florida’s students and their families. As Chairman of the Board at St. Petersburg College, I’d like to express our appreciation to Gov. Scott for choosing St. Petersburg College as one of the pilot project sites and as the location for making this historic  announcement. Affordable education has been the goal of St. Petersburg College throughout its 85-year history and we are prepared to work with other colleges in this challenging venture.”

Watch a video of the announcement on the college’s YouTube channel.

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Banking professor Irv DeGraw of the College of Technology and Management was quoted recently in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in a story about why it takes real estate short sales so long to close. Read about it at:


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