Edward Davidson, and Rashard Young turn to technical education to find new careers.
The Pinellas Technical Education Centers along with its Public Works Academy has been offering students various career and technical education courses since 1962. Today they offer a wide range of programs, everything from accounting and automotive service technology to computer systems technology to dental assistant and practical nursing – more than 60 programs in all.
Their mission is to “provide students the opportunity to develop national workplace competencies to fill the needs of business and industry.”
Edward Davidson, 55, of St. Petersburg and Rashard Young, 22, of Clearwater are both currently unemployed and are students in PTEC’s Public Works Academy. They volunteer at Pinellas County’s South Cross Bayou water reclamation plant as part of the curriculum’s volunteer requirement time needed to graduate.
Young said he is interested in someday becoming a wastewater or water treatment plant operator. He discovered that PTEC enabled him an opportunity to get his “foot in the door with a big city or municipality” while going to school and getting his license.
Davidson, who previously worked in construction, said he was looking for a career change when he heard about PTEC. He likes PTEC, saying “it prepares you to get a job with a city or county and it gives you the hands-on training needed. And you get to network with a lot of different people.”
Davidson also would like to become a facility operator. While he notes “no one knows for sure what the future holds, this is really going to help us.”
While they have only been volunteering at the plant for a few weeks, together they have done and are learning to do a variety of things, such as working with the plant operator to determine how much chemicals, such as chlorine, is in the water. Christina Pellegatti, technical project coordinator at South Cross Bayou, believes Davidson and Young as well as PTEC and the Public Works Academy are very helpful. With the budget shortfalls that county has seen in recent years, they have come to rely on volunteers more and more.
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” she said.
Ray Gorman is a teacher at the Public Works Academy and agrees with Pellegatti, He notes that for students like Davidson and Young it’s a training and education program to help them get entry-level jobs in public works, which has about 14 different career paths. The academy has supplied South Cross Bayou with volunteer students in the past.
”It’s a great relationship because without the assistance we have with Pinellas County it would be very difficult for us to do our program,” said Gorman. “Our students have to have 195 hours of intern on the job experience so the volunteer program has been a real success in helping our students meet that requirement.”
Both Davidson and Young receive financial aid through the school. They offer Federal Pell Grants and other agency scholarships, which are available to eligible students and is used to help students meet their educational expenses.