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)