Education Critical to Industry Throughout Region

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Pixabay. By Hermann Traub.

One of the greatest attributes of the citizens of Sarasota and Manatee Counties is their generosity and commitment to quality education. This is good for the community, the educators and the students. 

There are many reasons a strong educational system is good for the community, but it is also a necessity for strong economic development. We need an educated and trained workforce for economic development.

As in the past, citizens this November will be asked to vote on a referendum to extend an optional local property tax for the School Districts in both Manatee and Sarasota Counties. This referendum has historically passed by a wide margin showing commitment to quality education in the region. Let’s work to make sure they pass once again. I focus on both of these referendums not only because as a trade association GCBX represents members in both counties, but also because we are one metropolitical statistical area (MSA) and one region. We must realize that and focus on a thriving, robust and sustainable region.

An educated and well-trained workforce is critical to the local economy. Currently, labor shortages compounded by supply chain issues are having a huge impact on the local commercial contracting industry.

Plenty of jobs are available in the trades and as project managers and superintendents with General Contracting firms. Training and employment in the trades offers a route to financial security and the American Dream.  

I’m reminded of the story of a young man who was laid off during the pandemic. He applied to CareerEdge Funders Collaborative (part of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce) to participate in the HVAC Express Program offered at Sarasota Technical College. Throughout his three-month training, he was mentored by veterans in the field. He developed interview and professional skills for employment and upon graduation was immediately offered a job. in nine months from when he first stepped foot in the training program, he worked his way to $25 per hour with time-and-a-half for overtime and double time when on call. His self-confidence and pride have gone through the roof. He and his wife (both working) have been able to purchase a small starter home. He is making his American Dream a reality.

This type of story isn’t just important for the Construction Industry, it’s important for the community.  We need more stories like this in the community. Locally, both the Manatee and Sarasota County School Boards understand the importance of workforce training. The Construction Technology Program at Riverview is in its second year and is hugely successful. Similar programs have also started in other high schools. It's important that we support the Technical Colleges and high schools that offer these programs and training and have a track record of success.  

At GCBX, we will be sponsoring our 7th Annual Construction Career Rodeo to offer juniors and seniors from Manatee and Sarasota Counties an opportunity to explore the many career paths they can embark on right out of High School. Each year, many of these students walk away with internship and apprenticeship opportunities that result in high wage careers right here at home.

These programs change lives. These programs help build communities and support economic development. Let’s hope we can continue to support our local schools by supporting the referendum in November and by supporting the successful programs that exist in the region for this type of training. 

Mary Dougherty is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange.

Photo courtesy Pixabay. By Hermann Traub.

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