WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7 | By Gabriella Paul
Published March 17, 2023 at 2:15 PM EDT
Full Article and Audio are available on the link below.
The Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa was recently awarded a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The money will help grow the pool of skilled laborers.
Tampa is among a large number of U.S. cities experiencing a dire shortage of skilled trade workers.
Contractors nationwide recently reported that 89 percent of firms were having difficulty filling hourly craft positions, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
In response, most firms have raised base pay rates to attract employees, and another third of firms reported having to allocate more money toward training for new workers. In 2021, President Biden made bolstering trade jobs to address the nation’s aging infrastructure a focus of his $1.2 trillion bipartisan plan.
In Tampa, one nonprofit is working to grow the number of skilled trade workers by reducing the barriers to obtaining industry-required certifications.
David Jones is the director of workforce development for the Corporation to Develop Communities (CDC) of Tampa, Inc. He said that most trade industry work, like construction or masonry, doesn’t typically require a college degree — but it does require intense training, certifications and on-site hours.
“For a lot of individuals, going through any length of training is difficult because they need income to sustain themselves or their families,” Jones said.
But Tampa residents who are living paycheck to paycheck can’t afford to complete weeks-or months-long training without a steady income.
Jones said that’s where the CDC of Tampa comes in.
At the Tampa Vocational Institute, a former 13,000 square-foot warehouse in East Tampa, residents have access to career-readiness workshops and specialized training to meet employers’ needs, including a number of jobs in the skilled trade industry.
Beginning Monday, the institute is offering a 10-week “Intro to Construction” course where participants will learn the ropes of the trade while working paid hours three days a week at a partnering construction site.
Jones said students will graduate the program with OSHA-10 and NCCER certificates, “which [act as] the entrance into any of the apprenticeship programs [and] saves them about six months of training.”
Though industry-specific training is at no cost to participants, Jones said the resources are not free. The cost of services are paid for by a network of local, state and federal grants, scholarships and vouchers.
On Mar. 14, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) welcomed a crowd gathered at the Tampa Vocational Institute, located at 1907 E. Hillsborough Ave.
She announced that the CDC of Tampa was set to receive a $1.8 million Pre-Apprenticeship Training and Hiring Program (P.A.T.H.) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The P.A.T.H. program is designed to help Tampa’s workforce meet the demand for skilled laborers in several industries, including construction, transportation, healthcare and finance.
Castor said that this grant will bridge the “skills-training gaps, so that employers don’t have to carry all of the burden of training and recruitment.”
The CDC of Tampa was also recently awarded another $500,000 from a Brownsfields Job Training grant through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"Well, that's a reason to celebrate,” CEO Ernest Coney Jr. said.
Met with applause, he introduced several community leaders in the audience and a list of 14 partnering state and local employers, including Garney Construction and the Masonry Association of Florida. Tampa City Council candidate Robin Lockett and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman were also in attendance.
In an interview, Coney said that East Tampa has felt a disproportionate disparity of unemployment within Hillsborough County. He’s hopeful that the programs being revived and rolled out in coming days and weeks will help close that gap.
“We do not believe in just training. We do not believe in butts in seats. We believe that a paycheck is an opportunity to change the trajectory of your life,” he said.
Residents can visit the the CDC of Tampa website to learn more about eligibility for industry training and career placement assistance.
Gabriella Paul covers the stories of people living paycheck to paycheck in the greater Tampa Bay region for WUSF. She's also a Report for America corps member. Here’s how you can share your story with her.