Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation on Friday awarded $2 million in job training and education grants aimed at helping the logistics industry find skilled workers that can boost its productivity and increase the state's ability to engage in international trade, especially export activity.
Almost $1 million of that amount is set aside to train about 1,000 new and existing workers at port-related businesses as well as manufacturing and logistics companies. Reynolds, Smith and Hills, a major infrastructure engineering firm and the University of North Florida's Division of Continuing Education are partnering to coordinate the training.
Another $600,000 will go to train up to 600 people who work for air cargo related business. The air cargo training project will be coordinated through Broward College with help from Jacksonville-based Reynolds, Smith and Hills.
Businesses must contribute matching investments to qualify for these Quick Response Training grants.
The Jacksonville chapter of the American Society of Transportation and Logistics received a $600,000 one-year grant to create up to 15 Career Academies in high schools throughout the state focused on international trade, logistics and advanced manufacturing suitable for overseas markets. The intent of the program is create an ongoing pipeline of talent for the international trade sector.
The academies will be located near key deepwater seaports, inland ports, air cargo hubs and areas with high concentrations of logistics businesses, according to the request for proposal issued by the state.
Students will have direct access to business and industry through summer camps, job shadowing experiences, tours, internships and direct contact with experts in the classrooms or at career fairs. Teachers will be able to take externships, or hands-on learning experiences, with businesses in the field.
ASTL, was created in 1946 to ensure high-levels of professionalism and promote continuing education in the fields of transportation and logistics.
The grants are intended to take advantage of opportunities, identified last December in a study by the Florida Chamber Foundation, to boost Florida's role as an international trade hub. The study said more efficient logistics operations could attract advanced manufacturing to the state and enable it to export more goods.
Jobs in export-related businesses and the logistics sector tend to pay higher wages, according to industry experts. One of the study's recommendations was for the expansion of vocational, associate degree and workforce training programs to support the trade, logistics and manufacturing sectors.
"This private-public collaboration is exactly what Florida needs to win in the increasingly competitive environment," Chris Hart IV, president and chief executive officer of Workforce Florida Inc., said in a statement. "These training initiatives illustrate our commitment and agility in responding to the workforce talent needs of today and tomorrow, as Florida seeks to capture a greater share of the growing global economy."
Workforce Florida is the statewide workforce investment board led by business and government leaders and charged with overseeing Florida's workforce system, which includes the Agency for Workforce Innovation.
The state-funded Quick Response Training grants are designed to help new and expanding businesses create and retain jobs that require special skills. Companies have the flexibility to customize the type of training and select who delivers it to their employees, according to the Agency for Workforce Innovation.
Forty-two Florida companies received training grants during the last fiscal year to hire and train more than 8,000 new or currently employed workers. For every dollar of public funding invested in QRT, these companies will invest nearly $8 in training. Workers have experienced a 36-percent average wage increase following training using QRT, the agency said. ' Eric Kulisch