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When employees and guests enter the spacious lobby of Tech Data’s home office in Clearwater, motivational posters tower overhead.

Those messages – EXTRAORDINARY begins today and Go after it! – greeted St. Petersburg College students earlier this month.

The students got a first-hand look at what it would be like to be one of the more than 9,000 employees working worldwide for Tech Data and 26 other local companies during SPC’s National Job Shadowing Week, Feb. 2-6.

Ryan McNulty, Talent Acquisition Partner, for Tech Data’s Campus Relations department, works behind the scenes to make events like this happen for students from colleges and universities throughout Florida.

“The best part of working at Tech Data is that I get to be in a real corporate environment with access to a lot of executives and important decision makers that you don’t get in other companies,” he said.

Events like these often help students confirm a career path or area of study.

“After this experience, I am convinced that Human Resources is where I belong,” said Carol Hill, after job shadowing at Tech Data. “I am glad I was provided with an insight in Talent Acquisition Partner/Campus Relations.  I was also grateful to have learned the Human Resource Generalist role and to have had a chance to take the tour of Tech Data.”

Tech Data is one of the world’s largest distributors of IT products and services, ranking No. 111 in the 2014 list of Fortune 500 companies. In addition to their massive corporate home office in Clearwater, Tech Data has six district offices in the U.S. with international operations in Europe and Latin America.

Claudia Iacobescu

Claudia Iacobescu, an ESL student at SPC

Claudia Iacobescu, an ESL student at SPC who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting in Romania, was excited to shadow at Tech Data due to their international reach. She spent about three hours shadowing Karen Robinson, a supervisor in the accounting department.

“I was curious how their accounting department was working,” said Iacobescu. “She explained all the duties in every day. They work together like a team. I was very impressed.”

Prior to the job shadowing experience, Iacobescu explained that she had only seen the inside view of large companies like Tech Data in the movies.

“It was the first time I saw something like this,” she said. “Now I can see my dream with my own eyes.”

Other students had similar experiences at other leading local firms.

Tarpon Springs Campus student, Kane Magnuson, shadowed the Vice President of BB&T.

“He was very professional and extremely informative,” she said.  “He gave me valuable tips; it was an eye-opening experience. It gave me a totally different view of the banking system.”

SPC student Alyssa Renee  job shadowing at Nielsen Media Research

SPC student Alyssa Renee job shadowing at Nielsen Media Research

Alyssa Renee shadowed in various departments at Nielsen Media Research.

“I was excited to take advantage of the opportunity to shadow at Nielsen, said Renee. “Two of the most important lessons I gained from this experience were networking and saying ‘yes’ to everything. Virginia Lee, a software engineer, advised us to ‘start in the trenches’ by taking an entry level job as a chance to learn your weaknesses and to ‘fill the gaps’ by working on your weaknesses to define who you want to be as a leader.”

Some students, like Ronnell Montgomery job shadowed at St. Petersburg College. She tweeted about her experience shadowing at the St. Petersburg College Foundation with Jane Parker and Frances Neu.

Ronnell posted her thoughts on Twitter:

“Overall, our first National Job Shadow Week was extremely successful,” said Rosaria Pepitone, one of the Career Outreach Specialists that helped organize the event that gave 32 students a memorable experience. “We were ecstatic to hear all the positive feedback from the students and employers who took part in this opportunity.”

The following companies opened their doors and shared their time and knowledge during this year’s event:

  1. A+ Tax & Accounting Services, Inc.
  2. AIG Financial Network
  3. American Strategic Insurance (ASI)
  4. Bank of America
  5. BB&T Bank
  6. Bouchard Insurance
  7. City of Largo
  8. Clearwater Chamber of Commerce
  9. CPA Partners LLC
  10. Doug Mayer Insurance Agency, Inc.
  11. Goodwill Industries
  12. Hertz Corporation
  13. Hilton Worldwide Call Center
  14. ING Financial Partners
  15. Nielsen Media Research
  16. P3Agency
  17. Paychex
  18. Pinellas County Sherriff’s Office
  19. Prudential Insurance
  20. Raymond James Financial Services, Inc.
  21. RumFish Grill
  22. Seminole Chamber of Commerce
  23. Suncoast Credit Union
  24. Tarpon Springs Police Department
  25. Tech Data
  26. Transamerica
  27. WestCMR

If you are interested in having an SPC student job shadow or intern for your business, please contact an SPC Career Specialist.

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Peter-Parapon and his new daughterWith his wife due to deliver their baby any day, and a job interview scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, SPC Public Policy student and United States Air Force Veteran Peter Parapon expected the coming week would be busier than usual. But when he woke up on Monday, Nov. 17, he could not have dreamed what the next 48 hours would hold.

That night, his wife went into labor. After an exhausting, sleepless night, they welcomed their third child – a little girl – into the world. By the time things settled down, he had just enough time to run home, grab a shower, change into a suit and rush to a job interview for a volunteer position in U.S. Rep. David Jolly’s office on SPC’s Seminole Campus.

“They said: ‘You look so tired, what’s wrong?’” Parapon recounted. “Oh, we just had our third child.”

They were so impressed that he came in for that interview that they hired him on the spot.

“I called my wife and told her the good news,” he said. Then he went to class.

“I was awake for like 36 hours by the end of the day,” he said. “The next morning when I woke up I thought: ‘Did this really happen?’ Then I looked at the hospital bracelet on my wrist and knew it wasn’t a dream.”

Maintaining the school – life balance

Like many students at SPC, Parapon knows that balancing family, school and work is not an easy job. After graduating from Osceola High School in 2001, he started taking classes at St. Petersburg College.

“Before I entered the military I went to SPC without great results,” he said. “I was right out of high school and had to work — and work often trumped school.”

After serving as an Air Traffic Controller Apprentice in the Air Force in Texas he came home to Seminole to give college another try. This time around, the discipline and work ethic he picked up in the service gave him the tools he needed to be a successful student. And his Post-9/11 GI benefits meant he could focus on his education and getting work experience and still help support his growing family.

Parapon earned his A.A. from SPC and expects to graduate with his bachelor’s degree in Public Policy and Administration this fall.

“It is just amazing what the Public Policy and Administration degree encompasses,” said Parapon. “There’s a huge spectrum of what you can do with this degree.”

He remembers the advice of one of his SPC professors, Jeff Kronschnabl, who encourages students to follow their heart and do what makes them happy. For Parapon, serving in politics and government is a dream job.

The value of work experience

Pictured from left: Peter Parapon and Congressman David Jolly.

SPC Public Policy student Peter Parapon (left) and Congressman David Jolly.

Like many degrees at St. Petersburg College, hands-on work experience is part of the curriculum. To complete the 180 hours of work experience for his

Co-Op Experience class, Parapon worked on newly elected Florida Rep. Chris Latvala’s campaign from July-Nov. 2014. He knocked on doors, handed out literature and worked at campaign events.

“It gave me a lot of insight on how running for office works,” he said. “Grass roots campaigns are very important. Getting out there and meeting people face to face plays a huge role in politics and is still a major part of campaigns.”

And since he landed the job in Rep. Jolly’s office, he works about 16 hours a week adding to his already impressive work experience.

“Congressman Jolly’s staff are amazing to work with,” he said. “I’ve learned so much since starting there. I deal with constituent issues every day. It’s very rewarding when you get a chance to help resolve their issues.”

He values the experience so much that even though he has long-since satisfied his classroom requirements, he keeps volunteering with Latvala, knowing that eventually the experience he is gaining will pay off. Eventually, he wants to run for office and serve in a governmental leadership position.

“I may not be ready for a front line position as a candidate, but I am happy right now being behind the scenes helping government officials serve the people well.”

Veterans Services

Parapon is one of more than 2,000 veterans that call SPC home. For the fourth consecutive year, St. Petersburg College has been named among the Best for Vets Colleges by Military Times. This year, the college ranks No. 15 among four-year institutions in the U.S.

Parapon is the President of the Student Veterans Association on Seminole Campus and also works about 25 hours per week with Veterans Services through the work study program.

“Veteran Services are a good group of people with a wealth of knowledge,” he said. “I get to see Veterans and I can relate to them. It gives me a good feeling of comradery that veterans miss once we get out of military.”

He shares his continued passion for serving with other veteran students.

“For veterans who want to continue to serve their country, SPC’s Public Policy and Administration degree program is a great way to go.”

Read more about St. Petersburg College on Twitter at #spcollege.

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USNews

From U.S. News & World Report

St. Petersburg College offers training programs for nearly half of The 100 Best Jobs of 2015 report released by US News & World Report.

Among the Top 100 Best Jobs, SPC offers certificates and two- and four-year degrees in the following areas listed in the report:

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Since launching in Fall 2012, the Tampa Bay Hi-Tech Training (HITT) program at St. Petersburg College has helped 68 previously unemployed IT professionals find jobs.

The training program, funded by a $3.8 million federal grant, offers paid tuition, books and fees for certification training in information technology and telecommunications to the long-term, under- and unemployed in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

A total of 187 residents have enrolled in the program, and 125 have completed training. Programs are offered in computer support, programming and database administration through Corporate Training and the College of Computer and Information Technology. Applicants apply through CareerSource Pinellas.

“We’re extremely excited about helping students in their job search,” said James Connolly, director of Corporate Training at SPC.

Though the objective of the HITT Grant Program is to help the unemployed get back to work quickly, the program also “helps students get the skills they need to move up in the IT field,” said, Marie Couch, coordinator of the HITT grant program at SPC.

“The Tampa Bay Hi-Tech Training Program provides technology training to eligible individuals interested in an IT career for the skill upgrades needed to obtain the industry certifications employers require,” said Michelle Schultz, CareerSource Program Director. “The program delivers fast-track courses, certification assistance and job placement services to support students in reaching the next level of their career.”

Phil Kuligowski earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Florida before pursuing his Cisco Certified Network Associate certificate at SPC through HITT.

“SPC has been extremely supportive of my advancement in the IT field,” said Phil Kuligowski, who is now working at Cisco Systems as an Associate Systems Engineer. “I was able to get support through the HITT program to work towards my CCNA Certification. Having student loans, little money, and no prior work experience made it extremely difficult to accomplish much of anything. With their help, a passion for networking, and excellent career advisement, I was able to complete my certifications and get superior support as I applied for various jobs.”

Part of that support came from a newly hired Career Outreach Specialist, who helps students with interview skills, resume writing and job referrals. Once students complete their training, often in as little as eight weeks, they receive a certificate and a voucher to take industry certification exams. Students begin the program with agile development training, which is used in project management and team building, and ranks as the most needed job skill based on a recent IT Skills Gap Analysis.

Potential applicants can apply for CompTIA A+ Helpdesk, CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Healthcare IT Technician programs through Aug. 26.

Training for a Growing Career

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the information technology industry are expected to increase 16% percent by the year 2021. The fastest growing occupations will be computer support specialists (14%), systems analysts (20%), computer engineers (32%) and database administrators (20%). Comparatively, IT occupations across Florida and the Tampa Bay Region will grow at a much higher pace over the next 10 years (22% and 20%, respectively). The median hourly wage for the industry in this region was $29.55 in 2011.

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Across the Tampa Bay area, key players from St. Petersburg College, the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa are collaborating with local business and workforce groups to strengthen the area’s workforce, particularly when it comes to matching graduates with jobs. In the first of three scheduled “State of the Workforce Tampa Bay” events, local leaders identified the opportunities, challenges and solutions to improving a skilled workforce in Tampa Bay.

The in-depth panel discussion, held June 24 at the American Stage, was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Business Journal, SPC, Career Source Tampa Bay, Career Source Pinellas, Tampa Bay Partnership, Tech Data, and Modern Business Associates. Other events are planned for September and December. Staff from Collaborative Labs helped facilitate the event.

If SPC President Bill Law could “wave a magic wand,” he would like to see more high school counselors giving career guidance to students. Currently, counselors are over-burdened with other items, he said. But students need to know, at an earlier age than college, which careers have the strongest opportunities for growth.

Leaders identified several local industries that will need employees over the next five years, including:

  • advanced manufacturing
  • information technology, specifically development and cyber security
  • healthcare, particularly nursing
  • sales
  • marketing
  • data analytics
  • transportation and logistics
  • construction
  • social media

In addition, soft skills, like critical thinking and leadership, continue to dominate the list of aptitudes that employers said can make or break their interest in an applicant.

“We look for potential employees who are hungry, humble, and smart,” said Joseph H. Quaglia, President of the Americas at Tech Data.

Among the challenges facing local employers: workers are not prepared for the jobs they are hired to do. Specifically, business leaders said that students are graduating from programs without the specific skills they need to succeed in related careers. Organizations and companies then have to train graduates once they’re hired so they can keep up.

That deficit is frequently cited as one reason that businesses don’t re-locate or move jobs to the area. Area business and education leaders agreed that education programs should be more aligned with careers and that internships and apprenticeships can be critical connection points between colleges and the workforce.

Watch Jonathan Massie of Collaborative Labs discuss the white board doodle he created to capture the discussion in a video produced by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

SPC staff Jason Krupp and Lisa Yacso contributed to this report.

 

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The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce is forming the new Tampa Bay Beaches Community and Business Institute in an effort to develop future government, business and civic leaders, the Beach Beacon reported.

The TBBC&BI is a six-month program leading to a certificate of completion and a one-year membership in the chamber. Candidates for the institute can include Eckerd College and SPC students, according to the article.

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SCORE is holding an entrepreneurs’ resource expo for veterans, their immediate family members and active military on Nov.10. The expo, where St. Petersburg College staff will also present educational seminars, is aimed at those who want to be self-employed or want to start or grow a business.

The expo is free to all veterans and their families.

Veteran and entrepreneur Mark Swanson will be the keynote speaker for the event that will be held at the event at the Hilton at Carillon starting at 10 a.m. Swanson also is a partner of the college’s Entrepreneurship Program.

SCORE is a national organization with 365 chapters around the country and more than 13,000 volunteers. The nonprofit association educates entrepreneurs and helps small businesses start, grow and succeed nationwide.

U.S. Small Business Administration survey data clearly indicates that about 40 to 60 percent of veterans think about being self-employed or starting a business. Most of them have no idea where to turn for guidance and assistance without cost to them nor do they know about the many ways to finance a business.

US Census data shows that, within Pinellas, Hillsborough, Sarasota/Manatee, Pasco/Hernando and Polk counties, there are more than 420,000 veterans. Approximately 117,000 are ages 18 to 54 and are prime candidates who at least think of self-employment.

SCORE’s goal is to reach out to veterans and encourage them to learn about available programs and free mentoring that can help them start up and grow their businesses. The organization has about 150 to 200 mentors in the Greater Tampa Bay area.

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