Labor Department awards PBSC a $1.75 million grant to expand skilled trades training

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel speaks at the press conference in the HVAC lab on PBSC’s Lake Worth campus, flanked by Dean Kimberly Lea (left) and PBSC President Ava L. Parker (right) and surrounded by HVAC students. Click the image to see more photos.

Individuals seeking good careers in construction-related skilled trades will find enhanced training opportunities at Palm Beach State College through a $1.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Announced April 15 by U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel at a press conference on Palm Beach State’s Lake Worth campus, the College is one of 16 community colleges nationwide, and the only one in Florida, to receive funds in this fourth round of Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants, administered by the department’s Employment and Training Administration.

“Florida’s population is growing—by more than 1,000 people a day—and there’s lots and lots of building going on.” Frankel said. “Here’s the challenge: 85% of the contractors in this country are having a problem finding workers, and Palm Beach County is almost at the top of that list. We are blessed to have in this county a college that responds to the needs of the workforce. This grant is a very big boost, not only for students but for our county.”

HVAC students celebrate the grant with (from left) Tunjarnika Coleman-Ferrell, Ed.D., vice president of Academic Affairs; PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D.; U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel; Kimberly Lea, Ed.S., dean of Workforce Education and Development; and Julia Dattolo, president and CEO of CareerSource Palm Beach County.

Palm Beach State will dedicate the funds to expanding its plans to transform construction trades education at the College, which started with the $1 million award PBSC received in January from the Lowe’s Foundation. The new Labor Department grant will go toward personnel, employer and student outreach, technology and resources to increase enrollment, persistence and completion in construction pathway programs. The grant will elevate PBSC’s capacity to provide many more students, particularly those from marginalized and underrepresented populations, with equitable access to real-world training that equips them to succeed in the construction sector, with the goal of creating an inclusive pipeline of qualified workers for the construction-related jobs waiting to be filled.

“This grant is important for us because it allows us to expand and be more responsive to our community,” said PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D. “We have the best students in the county, and because of this support, we’ll be able to build a dynamic pathway to a sustainable future for students who can prosper in a skilled trade.”

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel tours PBSC’s HVAC lab.

Julia Dattolo, president and CEO of CareerSource Palm Beach County, pointed to the fact that the number of construction projects in the county is enormous, not to mention the great need to maintain existing structures.

“Whenever anybody graduates from these programs, they automatically have a job before they graduate,” Dattolo said. “If you look at the top industries in Palm Beach County, you’ll see that construction and trades are in the top five.”

Palm Beach State offers various certificate and degree programs that lead to good-paying jobs in the local construction industry, filling the need for HVAC technicians, electricians, low voltage technicians and construction managers. With the funding from the Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grant and the Lowe’s Foundation, the College looks to grow its program offerings to include plumbing and carpentry, along with developing the new Construction Trades Center for Workforce Innovation on the Lake Worth campus, an interdisciplinary training space that will simulate construction job site conditionsproviding real-world experiences for students. The center will incorporate both residential and commercial construction sites—an innovative smart house and an office suite facility—and be equipped with all the tools and equipment needed to design, build and renovate.

“Most of our training is under a year to 14 months. Students can learn these skills and then go out and work and make sustainable wages for their families,” said Kimberly Lea, Ed.S., PBSC dean of Workforce Education and Development. “When they can do that here in our community, that means they give back to our community. They are productive and not only can they work for local employers, but they also have an opportunity to be entrepreneurs.”

See more photos of the press conference.


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