Three major initiatives are fueling workforce training and employment opportunities for student and adult learners in Collier County

The Community Foundation of Collier County, Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, and Collier County Public Schools are opening doors to increased, high-wage employment opportunities for local students and adults.

This year, the Community Foundation has funded three major initiatives that will have a lasting impact on workforce development at Immokalee Technical College (iTech) and Lorenzo Walker Technical College. A $250,000 grant for the iTech Center for Manufacturing Excellence in Golden Gate purchased three expensive robotic automation stations. iTech Director Dorin Oxender said the college had just one station for adult education but can now expand training to dual-enrolled and rising junior and senior high school students with the additional stations to build on other programs at the school, such as computer numeric control. Oxender recognizes that programming robotics for state-of-the-art manufacturing and machining “is the trend that is leaning strongly toward the future.” Plans call for having students enrolled by the fall 2022.

At Lorenzo Walker, a Community Foundation award of $150,000 is funding a new Electronic Systems Integration and Automation Program to train students for a wide range of careers involving audio, video, alarm, intercom, and security systems, fiber-optic telecommunications, computer networking, and wireless systems. It will fund the salary for the instructor for two years, and waive tuition, lab, and industry certification fees for 60 students.

The Greater Naples Chamber received a grant to promote these expanded programs and help both schools fill these spots so learners can build on what Greater Naples Chamber President/CEO Michael Dalby calls “stackable credentials” that make jobseekers more desirable because of their expanded skillset and knowledge, which also boosts their future salaries. This basic electrical engineering course wasn’t available in Southwest Florida, but it makes perfect sense to offer this certification program because electronic components are omnipresent.

Lorenzo Walker “had a proven capability in electronics in similar types of training” and wanted to launch the course “but didn’t have the funding,” Dalby said. “When funding is discussed, it becomes possible.” The Chamber is “the hub between funding and educational training programs. We ask, “What do we need in our economy?” Not everyone is going to college, and we have adult learners coming back who want to improve their skills and get into higher-wage careers. We work with funding organizations and with workforce training providers. We have a great philanthropic community to help with seed money for these programs.”

Community Foundation of Collier County President/CEO Eileen Connolly-Keesler is thrilled to help “create new industry certificates for people in this community that will lead to jobs. There’s nothing better than that. This is going to help build our workforce and that’s really exciting.”