Chipola College announced during a Wednesday press conference the award of a $1.7 million grant to support its welding and building construction programs.
The grant funds will be used to expand those courses of study.
Chipola’s Construction Technology program is new to the curriculum this year and is led by instructor Scott Phelps in preparing students for employment or advanced training in the field.
The 1,050-clock-hour program covers electrical, plumbing, heating/ventilation/air conditioning, masonry, carpentry, and the use of hand and power tools.
Students also will work with math and construction drawings of floor systems, walls, ceilings and roofing. They are exposed to all the steps in a building process and to entrepreneurship skills for those who want to start their own businesses.
The school’s welding program is in its seventh year.
Instructor Curtis Jenkins leads that program, which school officials say uses state-of-the-art welding equipment, mobile welding units, and simulation technologies.
Workforce Florida projects annual growth of 13,500 jobs in advanced manufacturing and construction, with 75 percent of those requiring postsecondary training. Better-than-average annual growth is predicted for the welding trades.
Students interested in the construction and welding trades may be eligible to receive state or federal financial aid or scholarships for these programs.
It was not made clear exactly how the new grant may be put to use — terms of that are still being worked out.
The grant may, in part, help build a more formal relationship between the construction and welding programs, which will remain separate but are expected to coexist in a more connected way going forward. The leaders of the programs say they already have a strong working relationship even though they’re not formally linked.
Welding is more prevalent a need in commercial construction, while residential buildings have little of that. Chipola’s construction program right now focuses mostly on residential endeavors. The grant could help the school expand deeper into commercial construction and, in that case, welding would be more closely linked to the other program.
Funds for the grant are part of the Rebuild Florida Workforce Recovery Training Program: Hurricane Michael project, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).
The Florida DEO’s Long-Term Resiliency division supports communities following disasters by addressing long-term recovery needs for housing, infrastructure and economic development. DEO is the designated state authority responsible for administering all U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) long-term recovery funds awarded to the state, including the $1.7 million awarded to Chipola.
“We are proud to be a part of Rebuild Florida’s Workforce Recovery Training efforts,” said Chipola College president Sarah Clemmons in a press release. “Our new building construction program is helping to train workers to rebuild homes and businesses devastated by the hurricane. Our first class also has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for local families. Our welding program is providing highly-skilled workers for good-paying jobs in the area.”