Valencia College broadens training to fuel the worker pipeline
Even amid the pandemic, some sectors are growing — and hiring.
Even as Central Florida grapples with high unemployment and uncertainty in its tourism industry, other sectors — including manufacturing, construction and distribution/logistics — have continued to grow. To help meet the demand for skilled talent in those areas, Valencia College is ramping up its short-term training and degree programs.
Last year, 425 students went through Valencia’s Accelerated Skills Training programs, which provide hands-on training in medical assisting, welding, carpentry, core construction skills, warehouse operations and more. Students earned nearly 1,500 certifications, had a completion rate of 95% and a job placement rate of 81%. Valencia opened facilities for programs last year on its campuses in Kissimmee and downtown Orlando and is gearing up to build an eighth location, to be located on its campus in east Orlando. Eligible students can apply for scholarships for the programs through CareerSource Central Florida and other sources.
The college is also rolling out a new associate’s degree in engineering technology with specializations in advanced manufacturing and supply chain automation.
James McDonald, who designed the program with help from the Florida Advanced Technological Education Center and a $225,000 National Science Foundation grant, says the supply chain automation track will prepare students to work as technicians in Florida’s burgeoning e-commerce industry. “With e-commerce, a lot of the systems they use are highly automated systems. They rely on a lot of mechanical systems, electronics, programmable logic controllers, and they need technicians to maintain those systems,” McDonald says. Average entry-level pay for the jobs is more than $20 an hour.
McDonald collaborated with companies such as UPS, FreshPoint, FedEx, Dollar Tree, Walmart, HNM Global Logistics and Southern States Toyotalift and designed the curriculum based on their recommendations. “Without the industry input, we couldn’t develop these programs,” he says. “We don’t just develop programs because they sound cool in the professor’s head.”
Valencia has about 40 technical and workforce education programs that lead to degrees, with an average job placement rate of 94%.
Valencia College is one of 15 colleges across the nation that received $100,000 from the heavy metal band Metallica’s All Within My Hands foundation to support the school’s career and technical education programs. The Metallica Scholars Initiative grant program will provide scholarships to about 25 residents of Orange and Osceola counties who are training in welding, heavy equipment and mechatronics programs at Valencia. Graduates in those industries typically earn between $16 and $24 an hour in Central Florida.
Read more in Florida Trend's October issue.
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