Campus & Community

Glades businesses donate equipment for PBSC training

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Student Trustee David Hernandez shows his excitement for the new tractor. Photos by Tabatha B. McDonald

Palm Beach State College has received equipment valued at nearly $100,000 from Everglades Agricultural Area business partners.

Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida donated a $20,000 dump truck, Everglades Farm Equipment a $25,000 John Deere Stationary Power Unit, and Florida Crystals Corporation gifted a $50,000 tractor Tuesday to be used to train students in the College’s Heavy Equipment Mechanics program at the Belle Glade campus.

Christopher Hardy, a graduate of the program, said, “Receiving my certificate from PBSC opened so many doors for me and I am grateful for those opportunities. I was at a dead-end job when I took a risk and began taking courses at PBSC. I now have a high-skill, high-wage job and a bright future ahead of me.”

“These forward-thinking companies share our vision of ensuring that students are highly skilled and job-ready when they graduate,” said PBSC President Ava L. Parker. “Their gifts will enable our students to work on equipment critical to local industries and allow us to do an even better job of providing a quality workforce for the region. We are grateful to our business community partners for these donations and excited that our Heavy Equipment Mechanics program will continue to grow.”

“We are proud to partner with the Glades campus Heavy Equipment Mechanics program,” said James M. Shine, senior vice president of Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. “This is the best way for us to be able to recruit local residents who have the technical skills that are so important to the success of our business. This holds true not just for the sugar industry but also for local farmers in the region and the supporting businesses. We are pleased to be a long term supporter of PBSC and believe in the mission of providing the training to grow our workforce.”

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From left: Dr. Maria Vallejo, PBSC vice president and Belle Glade campus provost; Mike Revels, equipment maintenance manager, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida; Alleigh Schlecter Reitz, marketing manager, Everglades Farm Equipment; PBSC trustees Charles Cross, John Dowd, Barbara Miedema, Carolyn Williams and Wendy Link; James Shine, senior vice president, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative; PBSC President Ava Parker; School Board member Marcia Andrews; Javier Flores, PBSC graduate and Florida Crystals employee; Billy Sanchez, assistant vice president, Florida Crystals; and David Hernandez, PBSC student trustee.

“When we were approached about making a donation to the Heavy Equipment Mechanics program, we jumped at the opportunity,” said Alleigh Schlechter Reitz, marketing manager of Everglades Farm Equipment. “We have deep roots in the Glades with my great grandfather starting the farms in the 1930s and the John Deere dealership in 1963. Today we are one of the largest dealerships in the southeast and that’s mainly due to the highly fertile farmland in the EAA. We love giving back to our community and growing our workforce creating local good paying jobs.”

“Training programs like this one are so valuable for the Glades communities and for agricultural companies and job providers in the EAA,” said Billy Sanchez, assistant vice president of Florida Crystals. “We are delighted to help support Palm Beach State College, because they offer services to enrich the lives of their students and, at the same time, help train the local workforce for the highly skilled jobs offered by local farming companies.”

The Heavy Equipment Mechanics program began at the West Tech Educational Center in Belle Glade and moved to PBSC’s Belle Glade campus in 2013. Currently, there are 17 students in the program with the opportunity to accept a maximum of 22. The career certificate program takes three years to complete and prepares students for good-paying jobs as mechanics or mechanics helpers working on truck, bus and diesel engines, mobile heavy equipment, construction equipment and industrial vehicles.

Program Director Dr. Gloria McAllister noted that there is currently a 100% job placement rate for graduates of the program, with most securing jobs even before they graduate.


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