The Trucker Chronicles

By Adam Kealoha Causey

Thousands of Florida transportation industry workers could hone their skills using more than $2.2 million worth of state-funded training opportunities under a grant announced Wednesday.

Business leaders, elected officials and the board charged with keeping Florida residents in the workforce said the grants will help companies that use freight facilities, such as JaxPort. The infusion of cash is intended to create jobs, improve employee performance and start career-focused courses in high schools to make the state more competitive internationally.

Contracts are signed and instruction can begin immediately. Teaching is customized, so businesses can set their own schedules.

The overall message of the stimulus: Florida has depended on agriculture, tourism and construction for too long. Those sectors don’t fare well during recessions, as many Floridians know all too well.

“It’s time to diversify our economy,” Chamber of Commerce Global Outreach Director Frank Ryll said. “Florida cannot afford to miss the opportunity that we have.”

Companies, such as transportation engineering consulting firm Reynolds, Smith & Hills Inc., will provide instructors for courses at the University of North Florida’s Division of Continuing Education and Broward College.

That could mean teaching an outfit that has only conducted its business in-state how to reach out to a growing global market, according to Joe Debs, RS&H executive vice president. It also could translate into preparing entry-level employees for management positions.

“It’s a program that will improve skills for some workers,” Debs said. “Those that move up will create new jobs where they were.”

Workforce Florida, whose board is appointed by the governor, administers the grants. It estimates companies invest $8 for every $1 in subsidies. Once awarded, companies can use the money for training as they see fit.

Rep. Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville, said the announcement shows a united front across the state.

“The No. 1 focus in the Legislature is about jobs and the economy,” Ray said. “We are engaged in this together.”, (904) 359-4025

Breaking down the $2.2 million

State-funded grants totalling approximately $2.2 million are intended to be spent in three chunks:

$987,000 to train about 1,000 new and current workers at port-related, manufacturing and logistics businesses. This portion of the money is aimed at retaining jobs and expanding international trade. Instruction will take place at the University of North Florida.

$630,000 to improve skills for employees at air cargo-related firms. This training will take place at Broward College.

$600,000 to create up to 15 career academies in high schools throughout the state, focusing on international trade.

Source: Workforce Florida

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