‘Learning and earning’: Hillsborough Co. to offer free specialty training to workers getting paid to fill public utility jobs

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County is launching a new training program that can help grow a skilled workforce. The move comes among a growing need for skilled utility workers.

The county said it needs to fill more than 70 jobs managing critical infrastructure, so it’s offering free specialty training while getting paid.

“We want to make sure we’re doing two things: we’re helping our citizens and we’re helping our employers who have vacancies and high demand job vacancies,” Workforce Development and Community Stabilization Manager Ken Jones said.

8 On Your Side visited the water resources’ pump repair shop.

“Our customers go to the faucet, and they open up the faucet and they expect water to come out,” Public Utilities Assistant County Administrator George Cassady said. “What you may not think of – all of the technicians, all of the mechanics and all of the trade skilled trades that are behind the scenes 24/7 delivering that water to our customer base.”

Hillsborough County provides 49 million gallons of clean drinking water each day. That’s enough to fill more than 2,700 pools.

“We have 5,000 miles of pumps,” said Cassady. “Enough pipe to stretch from here to almost Hawaii, so we’ve got a lot of infrastructure and it takes a lot of folks to handle that.”

That’s where this pilot program comes in. It’s on-the-job training to earn industry certifications with a starting wage of $15 per hour.

“There’s a learning and earning opportunity,” said Jones. “Learning the job in school and core competencies and earning a salary while they’re actually on the job performing with learning in the classroom.”

Addressing what Jones calls a “skills gap,” the county is partnering with the Hillsborough Community College and Hillsborough Public Schools to get young people into the industry to then fill the vacancies within the county.

The County Commission has approved the initial budget of 500,000 for the program. It’s in the early stages but is expected to start late next year.

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