Pensacola State College has been awarded nearly $2.5 million in Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery funds to bolster construction trades employment in Hurricane Sally-impacted communities.
PSC, George Stone Technical College, CareerSource Escarosa and Habitat for Humanity will collaborate to train low- to moderate-income residents in the carpentry, electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), masonry, plumbing and welding trades.
“These will be short-term noncollege credit boot camps where students will earn certificates and be able to jumpstart careers in construction,” said Michael Listau, PSC’s dean of Workforce Education.
Titled PSC ReBuilds, the short-term boot camps are based on National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) requirements for entry-level certification. Boot camps are scheduled to begin in early 2024.
The Florida Department of Commerce announced the $2,499,541.64 grant under the Rebuild Florida Workforce Recovery Training Program on July 12. The program was launched to fund local workforce development boards, educational institutions and technical centers in communities most impacted by Hurricane Sally. The Category 2 storm caused more than $7.3 billion in estimated damages when it hit the Florida Panhandle and coastal Alabama on Sept. 18, 2020.
Listau said CareerSource Escarosa and community organizations will recruit students for the boot camps, which will be held on PSC’s Pensacola campus. George Stone will benefit from receiving additional equipment, and students will work on Habitat for Humanity build sites to gain hands-on experience showcasing the community impact this award will have.
Pensacola State College President Ed Meadows said the training will benefit the community twofold.
“Not only will the boot camps help with Hurricane Sally recovery efforts by putting trained craftsmen in the workforce, but the program will also address overall employee shortages in the construction trades,” Meadows said, adding the collaboration with Habitat for Humanity is an advantage.
“Hands-on, real-world training is crucial in these trades because there is only so much you can learn from a book. In the construction work, practical experience is invaluable.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment in construction and extraction occupations is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031 – resulting in about 252,900 new jobs over the decade.
In addition to new jobs from growth, the BLS also reported the need to replace retiring workers or those who leave the field. About 723,400 openings each year, on average, are projected to come from growth and replacement needs.
“These are high-wage jobs with sought-after skill sets,” said Listau, who noted that various career paths and job opportunities are available.
“If someone works hard, the sky is the limit regarding potential. These skilled craftsmen can work for contractors, start businesses, or even return to Pensacola State to earn a degree or more advanced certificate.”
According to BLS May 2021 statistics, the median annual wage for employees in the construction trades was $48,210 ─ a number higher than the median yearly wage for most occupations of $45,760. Salaries vary annually from $48,260 for carpenters to $59,880 for plumbers.
Boot camp participants who choose to enroll in PSC will have access to the Veterans Upward Bound and the Educational Opportunity Center TRIO programs, the PSC Career and Technical Education department and the Pirates CARE Student Resource Center.
Listau added the grant also will help the College start a masonry program.
“The general feedback from the community is that we need more skilled masonry workers – bricklayers, those who work with tile, stone, and cement,” he said.
Students completing the boot camps will be NCCER, OSHA 10, (construction) flagger, and Heartsaver CPR/AED certified.
“Students will learn basic safety – employers seek this skill, basic tool use and basic carpentry skills,” Listau said, adding they will be given their own work boots, tools, tool belt and safety equipment for the boot camps.
The grant award is part of the $187 million Gov. Ron DeSantis awarded to communities impacted by Hurricane Sally through the Rebuild Florida program.