Glades County Training Center open for business

The Gateway Logistics and Manufacturing Training Center will start training for commercial drivers licenses in early 2016.

The Gateway Logistics and Manufacturing Training Center will start training for commercial drivers licenses in early 2016.

Glades County is open for business with the first certification training program set to begin in early 2016 at its new 40,000-square-foot Gateway Logistics and Manufacturing Training Center. County Manager Paul Carlisle said the center’s inaugural training for commercial drivers licenses will prepare potential semi drivers for a career experiencing rapid growth and higher wages.

“There’s a national shortage of 25,000 truck drivers and it’s expected to grow,” he said.

The U.S. government estimates 330,000 new truck drivers will be needed in the next five years.
The Gateway Center represents the future for Glades and Hendry residents to improve their job outlook and marketability by training for state- and national certifications needed by companies throughout Southwest Florida and the Heartland region. Both counties are included in the FutureMakers Coalition, an initiative to transform the workforce by increasing the number of degree and certificate holders from 27 percent to 40 percent by 2025.

Improving the workforce’s qualifications not only benefits companies, it also creates a more vibrant and sustainable economy. Glades and Hendry are for the most part rural counties, claiming only nine of the Southwest Florida region’s 475 businesses employing 100 or more. The goal is to increase access to post-secondary education and expand the pool of skilled-workers throughout the region to create more jobs throughout Southwest Florida.

Introduced in March 2015, the FutureMakers Coalition is among 75 metropolitan areas included in Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment, a national movement to increase the quality and competitiveness of America’s workforce.

Members of the coalition include Carlisle plus major employers who are working with K-12 and post-secondary educators, community and government leaders and other stakeholders determined to reshape the regional business climate and create a better place to live and work.

The manufacturing training center aligns with the mission of FutureMakers and is one of the first examples of the coalition’s emphasis on creating collaborations between government, educators, area businesses and community stakeholders to offer certification training in skills needed by regional employers. Polk State College, Florida SouthWestern State College and Palm Beach State College are working cooperatively to establish curricula.

“The goal of the center is to train students who are underemployed and unemployed,” Carlisle said. “This is the way to get more people certified in the trades. If we don’t have tradespeople we don’t have a house, a working air conditioner or auto mechanic.”
Tradespeople are the backbone of many major industries. Construction jobs require skilled labor, employees certified in plumbing, electrical work and HVAC installation, for example. The Gateway center will offer fast-track routes to certification with requirements completed as early as six months to two years depending on the program.

CDL certification is just the beginning.

Meetings with companies throughout the Heartland region gaged hiring needs and involved the local colleges in programming potential class offerings that will lead to well-paying jobs for Glades and neighboring Hendry County residents.

“We have buy-in from all the regional colleges who are working together to provide certified training for students,” said Carlisle. “Certification is a major goal for FutureMakers.”

He expects many of the students to have some background in operating machinery, either in the area’s citrus groves or in agriculture – giving them an advantage in future certification courses.

Two of the largest regional employers, U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystal, expect to collectively fill 450 job openings in the near future, some of which will require certifications in logistics, mechanics, welding and CDLs for transporting their products.

As it progresses, the center will offer additional post-secondary certification programs that allow local residents to train in their own backyard. Transportation is being provided to residents of Hendry and Glades.

The Gateway center also houses office space for CareerSource, a state program that pays for certification and college training for the unemployed, provides relocation assistance, on-the-job training and hiring incentives for businesses.

“The center is the pinnacle that turns things around for us,” said Carlisle. “Not everyone is going to college. This is exactly what the FutureMakers Coalition is looking for.”

It’s this spirit of collaboration the FutureMakers Coalition is emphasizing in what it calls a cradle-to-career network supporting traditional students, adult learners, the unemployed and the underemployed in achieving college degree and certification attainment.

“We’re seeing the embodiment of partnerships between multiple stakeholders in the Gateway Logistics and Manufacturing Training Center,” said Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the agency serving as the coalition’s anchor organization. “These partnerships are important in building a highly-skilled workforce trained for the jobs of today and tomorrow and ultimately ensuring this talent stays in the region. Businesses will thrive, but so will individuals, families, schools, neighborhoods, and the economy.”

The center, midway between Florida’s East and Gulf coasts, will initially target residents of rural Glades and Hendry counties and eventually expand its reach to provide certification and specialized training for residents and businesses throughout Southwest Florida.

Arthrex, an orthopedic medical device company in Naples, has also worked with the center in developing manufacturing processes, said Mike Boose, director of human resources for Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials and 100 Best Companies to Work For.

The participating colleges will develop additional curriculum on an as-needed basis.

“Now that it’s built we plan to approach more businesses to see what we can do to help them,” says Carlisle. “We’d like to extend our reach to eastern Lee County and Collier County.”

The county manager is a realist, however, acknowledging the center will initially train local residents to fill job openings elsewhere. However, as it certifies more employees, he also envisions the facility as a catalyst in drawing business to the neighboring Glades County Commerce Park and Americas Gateway Logistics Center on US 27.

“We’re not going to bring manufacturing companies here unless we have a steady skilled workforce,” he said. “We feel it will happen when businesses realize there are talented employees in this area.”

Glades County’s low-cost office and warehouse space plus enticing tax incentives are likely to appeal to businesses looking to increase their bottom line. The county’s quality of life and housing affordability will ultimately entice employees with is laid-back lifestyle, said Carlisle.

“We’re 1.5 hours to Miami Beach and the same distance to beaches along the Gulf coast,” he said. “We have no traffic, our schools are A-rated and it’s great place to raise a family.”

The training center can also decrease downtime for manufacturers establishing a location within the industrial park location. Carlisle said employees can train on the company’s equipment within the warehouse while a manufacturer completes build-out then moves to its new location.

County tax incentives will also help attract future businesses. The sites are developed, have zoning in place and can be fast-tracked to a six-month construction window.

“Everything is in place and businesses don’t have to jump through hoops,” Carlisle said. “We’re ready to get our residents to work.”

The Glades County Democrat is published every Thursday.

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