The Pasco County Commission recently approved the expenditure of $125,000 to support AmSkills Inc., a youth and adult workforce training program.
Plus, commissioners kept the door open for additional funding in future years for the organization — at the urging of County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.
Commissioners had been set to consider the $125,000 request during their Nov. 17 meeting on the board’s consent agenda. When items are on that portion of the agenda, they are approved in a single motion — unless a commissioner or member of the public asks for the item to be pulled for discussion.
Starkey requested the AmSkills issue be pulled because she objected to a phrase in the proposed approval that would have precluded the organization from seeking additional future operating funds from the county.
“I think it’s a mistake to put something that we can never ask for operating funds again,” Starkey told her colleagues.
“I just ask that we keep it at the $125,000, and then see what happens next year, but don’t put something that hamstrings anyone in perpetuity, because what we’re doing with workforce training and helping people get great jobs is amazing,” she said.
She also informed board members that AmSkills is moving from its location, which had been provided by Pasco County Schools, to its own building next year.
She said it also plans to expand its training program, and has been contacted by the Tampa Bay Builders Association, Withlacoochee Electric Co., and others to help set up training programs for them.
She noted that the jobs training program is gaining national recognition for its programs, but noted the county’s funding is the only funding that can be used 100% for operating costs.
“When you get grants, most of the time it’s for capital or specific things, but not operating,” Starkey said.
David Engel, manager of Pasco County’s office of economic growth, told commissioners that in general, the county triples to quadruples its return on investment when it spends money on programs that create jobs.
Engel also noted that “the work program that was submitted by AmSkills deals specifically with electronics and machining. They are working now with the Tampa Bay Builders Association on a very important trades program.”
Starkey said the new location will be advantageous for AmSkills and for people who need workforce training.
“They’re expanding their electrical program,” Starkey said.
Plus, AmSkills is making a move toward creating an innovation training center that will help other industries,” she said.
So, she urged the board: “Let’s leave the door open, and then we can judge it next year, if there’s a request.”
Starkey made a motion to that effect, which was seconded by Oakley and approved on a 5-0 vote.
In another action, the board passed a resolution recognizing national apprenticeship week and congratulated Justyn Bowes, who was named AmSkills apprentice of the year last year.
Bowes was so busy in his work he wasn’t able to receive the award last year, so he received it during the board’s meeting, in a presentation that was shared with commissioners via Zoom.
Bowes was one of the first high school students that started with AmSkills in 2015. He went to work as an apprentice in 2018, and at the age of 22, he travels extensively installing multimillion machines at key PharmaWorks locations.
“Justyn is a great example of how apprenticeships work,” said Peter Buczynsky, of PharmaWorks, in Odessa. “This is the model for the future, in growing our talent.”
Starkey noted: “We are now only one of two registered apprenticeship programs in the state of Florida. We were the first.”
Buczynsky added: “The nation is really looking to see what we’re doing here in Pasco County. It’s really impressive.”
“What a great opportunity that we have — a 22-year-old Pasco resident who is now traveling the world. It just chokes me up,” Starkey said.
Published December 09, 2020