Hendry County Commissioner Michael Swindle has a day job in education that’s made him a key player as the county has pressed forward with neighboring Glades in trying to get more adult job training set up at the Glades County Regional Training Facility (GCRTF).
He’s employed by the Hendry school district as its director of workforce development, and one program he’s been working on dovetails nicely with the GCRTF effort, which is gathering steam. On Tuesday, the commissioners of Hendry and Glades counties came together for another workshop at the center.
At the May 22 Hendry County Board meeting, Mr. Swindle went into some detail about a cooperative construction technology program he’s been working to establish along with other educational institutions, public agencies and local businesses, which he’d mentioned before.
County Board Chairman Mitchell Wills asked him, “The program you were talking about … with the students working along with people in the industry now, how’s that coming along?”
He answered that it’s been progressing very well. “We’re expecting a July 1 start date. I was working along with Mr. (Richard) Yoraschek. He’s going to be one of the champions to help make that happen, and the construction firm that he’s working with,” which is LaBelle Plumbing. Mr. Swindle went on to say the program will provide instruction in building-related trades such as masonry, plumbing, electrical work and carpentry.
“What it’s going to be is almost the apprentice-based type thing, without the apprentice name. We’re just going to kind of steal their curriculum and mojo, and basically assign students that fit to said contractor. They may work with Mr. Yoraschek and learn the plumbing skills, then go out and demonstrate the plumbing skills. So it’s going to be hands-on training,” he continued.
He explained that the school district already provides such vocational education for high school students.
Responding to questions from Commissioner Karson Turner, Mr. Swindle said that Mr. Yoraschek will act as a sort of coordinator for the program because “it would be a travesty not to lean on all his years of knowledge and expertise.”
County Board Vice Chairwoman Emma Byrd asked, “So where do they go from there?”
Mr. Swindle responded, “At the end of 1,050 hours’ on-the-job training, they will get a building construction technology certificate showing that they have received … training within that wide girth of areas.” He said the program is meant to benefit both students after high school and local small businesses.
“What we’re doing is we’re training as well as providing a funnel for those businesses that really want folks to come to work for them, and we’re also going to create a career pathway where these young men and women say, if they like electrical work, say; well, you know what? FMTC (Fort Myers Technical College) has a phenomenal track for that, or Palm Beach State or maybe it’s West Tech. So we want to provide a … clear pathway (so) they can work as well as continue their education in that,” he continued.
Commissioner Turner asked whether the Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board was helping. Mr. Swindle replied that aid is available through CareerSource for “those who qualify for CareerSource funding, which a lot of our residents do,” and that it will pay for hundreds of hours of the training. “So the students are actually employed and get workmen’s comp through CareerSource, which is phenomenal,” he added.
Mr. Turner complimented him, saying,
“This IS phenomenal, what you’re doing, whether Airglades ever lands a jet or not. How do we help market this?”
“Word of mouth,” Commissioner Swindle said. “Mr. Yoraschek and the company that he’s working with and through, they have been great coming to the table. Depending on the numbers of folks that sign up by the mid-June deadline, we may need more contractors. I hope we’re in that situation.”
Commissioner Turner wanted to discuss more details, but evidently the program is a work in progress.
“We’re kind of laying the tracks as that train’s a-coming because there’s such a big demand, and it did go over very well in the initial stages, so what I can’t answer we’ll figure out together,” Mr. Swindle said.
“I just wish you’d find a way to do this at the Glades County training center,” Mr. Turner replied, and Mr. Swindle said, “I agree,” advising everyone to stay tuned.