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Wednesday, 24 September 2014 00:00

U.S. Rep. Castor Announces $350K Economic Grant for Jobs in Transportation and Diesel Technologies

A U.S. Census report revealed that Tampa Bay ranks last among the country's 25 largest metro areas when it comes to median household income. This prompted U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL) to reveal on September 24, 2014 that investments in transportation and related job training will help provide a pipeline to higher wage employment.

"The Tampa Bay community must stay focused on boosting higher-wage jobs. The $350,000 economic development grant to Hillsborough Community College from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration will help create a new training initiative for jobs in the transportation sector and diesel technologies," announced U.S. Rep. Castor at the HCC Training Center in Ybor City.

The grant will help fund renovations for 7,800-square-feet of existing space that will house the new Diesel/Marine Diesel/Transit Training Center. HCC already provides workforce programs for auto body collision repair and welding.

"We are delighted that the EDA has made a second investment in HCC," said Dr. Ken Atwater, HCC president. "The grant will help continue to build a sustainable workforce for our community. Transportation and logistics is an imperative component of our region's economic vitality. Programs such as the automotive, welding and a future diesel mechanic program will help fill the need for local highly trained workers."

The Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation's 2014-2015 report projects the need for qualified technicians and mechanics for aircraft, automobiles, buses, trucks, and other diesel vehicles at approximately 2,000 annually for the Tampa Bay region. The same report also projects a mean salary of about $19/hour for bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists.

"In the Tampa Bay area there are more than 130,000 commercial vehicles with diesel engines, and at some point they all need to be serviced. The industry is running out of the very people we need to fulfill these very important needs," said Oscar Horton, CEO of Sun State International, a local full-service truck dealership.

Sun State International is part of the International dealer network, the industry's largest, with more than 1,000 dealer locations in North America.

"As we stand here today, the greater Tampa Bay area has hundreds of openings for diesel technicians - at Sun State we would take 20 graduates right now," Horton added. "These positions are no longer shade-tree mechanics. These trucks are now run by computers and they require service from highly skilled workers. The average wage and benefit pay for one of my technicians is $67,000/year."

Data released by the US. Census Bureau shows that median household incomes in Tampa Bay languish below $50,000.

"Our neighbors need solid pathways into the middle class and a good-paying job is key to doing so.Investing in transportation and quality training for transportation-related jobs that are in demand will create opportunities to lift our working neighbors who are seeking economic security for their families," U.S. Rep. Castor said. "Technical training centers across the country - like this one at HCC - have already prepared workers for 29 million jobs that pay up to $75,000 annually."

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