On Wednesday, October 25, AmSkills Training and Apprenticeships held the closing ceremony for their 25th Career Bootcamp at the AmSkills Workforce Innovation Center in Holiday, Florida. The event was to celebrate the accomplishments of their 22 graduates and award them with their certificates and checks for $150. The course spanned eight and a half days across two weeks and helped to develop the students in the areas of support manufacturing and soft skills.
Training the graduates in team building, interviewing, working on resumes, and preparing to get a job are all vital skills for adults on the hunt for career opportunities. According to Sean Rouillier, who is the AmSkills Community Outreach Coordinator and a retired member of the U.S. Air Force, the course is valued at three thousand dollars, but the cost is absorbed by the program. As they are a non-profit, AmSkills is funded by the Department of Labor’s National Dislocated Worker Grant to the amount of $2.997 million. They only require a $25 fee up front that is then returned to the students upon graduation.
“I think that the program is special in the way that you can come into it with having no idea what manufacturing is, not understand or being aware that there is so many job opportunities in manufacturing,” said Tyler Mudano, AmSkills Project Manager. “It provides the skillsets and the foundational information to help people to see and become more aware and exposed to what’s out there. I think that’s pretty exciting.”
During the course, six prospective employers generally sponsor the boot camp and are brought in to conduct interviews and hold “lunch and learns.” As part of this, the companies cater lunches for the classes and discuss the positions, pay, and the benefits. Afterward, the companies can then choose students that they wish to give second interviews.
Many of these employers operate in the manufacturing sector and there are a variety of places where past graduates have gained employment: Bausch & Lomb, CME, and Pasco Utilities, among others. With Tampa having the most manufacturers in the state of Florida, the program deftly operates in the tri-county area of Pasco, Hernando, and Pinellas County. According to AmSkills, “AmSkills was formed by Pinellas, Pasco, & Hernando Counties through an interlocal agreement as an Independent County Special District in November 2014 as an economic development and workforce training initiative for the manufacturing industry.”
Dr. Alessandro Anzalone, the Chief Operating Officer at AmSkills, discussed just how crucial a role this boot camp plays in these graduates’ search for a career in manufacturing. “To me, the most important aspect is the majority of these participants had the opportunity of getting into manufacturing because they don’t have any manufacturing experience in their resumes,” said Dr. Anzalone. “So, they don’t even get called. So, many of them have been trying several times. First of all, if they complete the camp, they get guaranteed interviews. Then, after that, many of them get a job. So, this makes that happen.”
At 43 years of age and a father of three children, boot camp graduate Jose Gaston worked in the field of home electronics and would be required to go up and down ladders rather often. With this course, Gaston was looking to change his career to a position that would not be as taxing on his body. Considering the cost of gasoline, Gaston would also like to avoid a job that necessitates excessive driving. With this class, the father of three feels he will be afforded that opportunity.
“I realized to be on a ladder on the edge of a building is not the smartest way,” Gaston said. “I know these parts in my body, they don’t make those parts. So, that’s why I am making the changes. I got to support my wife. I found good teachers, good partners. We take the classes and it’s really been a good experience… hopefully it’s going to change my whole family’s life.”
According to Rouillier, the course began “in a construction trailer” and has grown over the last two and a half years to become a productive program that changes the lives of its students. These career boot camps occur roughly every month, with the next two scheduled for January 29th at the Lealman Exchange Community Center in St. Petersburg and March 4th at the Innovation Center in Holiday.