tampabay.com

Learning a trade has potential for success

By A TIMES EDITORIAL
Published March 20, 2007


School officials' efforts to ratchet up training programs for the building trades are clear and necessary examples of the rules of supply and demand in action. There is a tremendous need for skilled workers in these fields, and Citrus and neighboring counties have plenty of high school-aged students who will soon need decent jobs and careers.

Now, all it takes is for the various sides to come together on a concrete plan.

One very promising project being discussed by school officials in Citrus, Marion and Levy counties would create academies focused on training in the construction fields.

Some programs already exist in the counties and the goal would be to enhance those and create new ones designed to meet the specific needs of the local markets. Working together, the three counties could pool resources and develop model programs that would satisfy both the students and the employers.

Part of the driving force behind the effort is Progress Energy's intention to build a second nuclear power complex in Levy County, a mammoth project that will require hundreds of skilled construction workers for many years. Add to that the ambitious plans the utility has for improving the Crystal River energy complex and just this one major player in the regional job market is telegraphing a fantastic employment opportunity for the communities.

Factor in the many other home and commercial construction projects in the pipeline and the need for a skilled and trained workforce becomes apparent.

For many years, Citrus County has offered training in fields including carpentry, heating and air-conditioning technology, welding and electricity at the Withlacoochee Technical Institute. The district also offers drafting classes and related courses.

Marion County also offers an academy of sorts in the construction fields and plans are to expand those course offerings.

But this initiative calls for the districts to work closer with each other and, more important, with the major employers in the region to tailor their programs.

At a time when the local job market could use a jolt of energy and better-paying opportunities, this effort to create construction-skills academies at local high schools represents a forward-thinking way to help the community.

It would give young workers a reason to stay in their hometowns and raise families here, thereby strengthening the social fabric of the counties.

That could be the best building project that results from this new effort.