Workforce board Director Joe Paterno said on March 1 his organization would contribute $20,000 toward the salary package for a GCRTF chief, according to Glades County Manager Paul Carlisle. He, along with Hendry County Administrator Charles Chapman, met that day with Mr. Paterno and Community Foundation of Southwest Florida President Sarah Owen at the center to talk more about the effort, Mr. Carlisle said. The group was following up on a joint Glades-Hendry board workshop there on Jan. 11.
The job training push is expected to be a main topic again at the second joint Glades-Hendry county board meetup of 2018, set for April 5 in LaBelle. That conference will start at 4:30 p.m. at the Hendry Emergency Operations Center, 4425 State Road 80 West, LaBelle.
Hendry County Commissioner Karson Turner, who has been vocal in pushing the job training effort and calls the facility the “Hendry-Glades training center,” told fellow commissioners Feb. 27 that he’d like to see a part-time GCRTF director lead recruitment of trainers and a full-time person run day-to-day activities, adding that he believed they’d need a $500,000 annual budget to make better use of the fairly new building. Mr. Turner asked Mr. Chapman to work with all available partners to make that happen.
The two county boards had informally agreed in January to commit $20,000 apiece toward getting a director. Then the county managers made their pitch in the March 1 meeting to Mr. Paterno and Ms. Owen, asking their two organizations to help finance a budget. Money was also being sought from the state’s fiscal 2019 budget, which, as approved by the Legislature March 11, allocates $85 million toward workforce training and economic development.
“Southwest Florida Community Foundation right now doesn’t have any funds to commit, but they haven’t opposed it,” Mr. Carlisle said. “But it went well; it was well-received. We talked about some of the obstacles that we’ve faced since we first started the training center.” The biggest was that community colleges pulled back from initial pledges they’d made to establish programs there.
“And so we explained all that to both of them, and that … if we could get a director in there, he/she could go out and revitalize the community and the business community and reach out for grants,” he said. “None of us have the time – the county managers and county commissioners – to be able to do that, to run the school and go out and reach out to all those entities. It’s going to take a full-time person.”
Right now, Suncoast Trucking Academy is conducting commercial driver license training at GCRTF, plus there are adult education and citizenship classes being conducted by the Glades County School District, which also originally financed furnishings for the building.
Mr. Carlisle said other companies have been approached as well. “We’ve had some conversations with a couple of entities that seem interested, but at this point it’s just discussion. Motorola, we’ve talked to them, and they thought it was a good regional spot. It’s too early for them to make any commitment at this point, but they thought it would be a good regional spot for them to bring training for their Motorola technicians there, so that’s one thing,” he explained.
Mr. Carlisle said plans also are in the works to provide regional first aid, life safety and public safety training at GCRTF. Firefighting and rescue training has been provided there previously, sponsored by Central Glades Fire Rescue.
The Community Foundation of Southwest Florida contributed a grant to help get the training center set up in 2016 with the technology and equipment needed to operate advanced job training courses, such as for diesel mechanic and welder certifications. State funding had been obtained to expand it back then with two classrooms designed for such uses, but there’s still a shortage of workers in those fields in the region and the classrooms sit idle much of the time.