DADE CITY — Pasco County is hoping a proposed Innovation Training Center based on a German education and apprenticeship model will help prepare workers for high-demand manufacturing jobs and perhaps attract more manufacturing companies to the area.
The county commission, in a 3-1 vote, approved a resolution Tuesday to show its support for the three-county project and to send a message to the state Legislature that Pasco is willing to put up its share of the funding to make the project happen.
Commissioner Pat Mulieri cast the dissenting vote, saying she had thought the commission would hold off pledging its money until the Legislature agreed to provide matching state funding. Commissioner Henry Wilson also expressed reluctance, especially since the full commission wasn’t present Tuesday. Chairman Jack Mariano was absent. Wilson ultimately voted with the majority.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, the most vocal supporter of the plan, said approving the resolution Tuesday wasn’t a necessity, but it strengthens the county’s hand as commissioners travel to Tallahassee to lobby legislators
“There are many safeguards in place that our money will be well protected,” Starkey said.
The Innovation Training Center would be created through an interlocal agreement among Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Each county would commit $400,000 to the project over two fiscal years, contingent on the Legislature tossing in $1.5 million in state funds.
Each county would have a center to provide training and apprenticeship opportunities for students 16 and older. The centers would partner with community and state colleges, career academies, school districts, local industries and science, technology, engineering and math centers.
The Innovation Training Centers would have a nine-member governing board that would meet at least once every two months. Members would include a county commissioner, an education representative and a manufacturing representative from each county. The education representatives would be appointed by the school boards and the manufacturing representatives would be appointed by the county commissions.
The impetus for the centers was a 2013 study by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council that found manufacturers were unable to promptly fill vacancies for machinists, engineers and other skilled technical positions.
The German model blends academic and practical hands-on education training experience, which allows students to moved directly from the classroom into advanced manufacturing and engineering careers.