By Kerry Schofield
Neighborhood News Bureau
Oct. 18, 2009
ST. PETERSBURG — From blue-collar to white-collar, the new job trend is green-collar. The Pinellas County Urban League will host its first Florida Go Green Career Opportunities Fair Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Pinellas Technical Education Center. The league plans to hold the event annually.
The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 901 34th St. S. in St. Petersburg. Companies and educational institutions will showcase renewable energy and green job initiatives. Workshops will also be held for employment skills and interviewing techniques.
A June 2009 report by Workforce Florida recognizes that some green jobs represent “layers of green skills” on existing occupations like building construction. Some green jobs require new skills or training to upgrade existing skills.
“There is a training curve that has to be addressed,” said Katrisa Winston of the Pinellas County Urban League. One example is solar panel installation. This green job builds upon traditional construction skills and requires some additional training.
In the broader sector, green jobs are found in construction, reforestation and land restoration. Types of emerging green jobs include energy auditor, wind generating installer, greenhouse gas assessor, smart grid engineer and hybrid cell auto tech.
PTEC Director Peter Berry said that rising unemployment is causing many people to seek vocational training in alternative occupations. High school students to senior citizens as well as degree holders are returning to school.
There are 43 vocational centers in Florida. For each full-time equivalent student, PTEC receives $3,700 from the state. Students pay fees and expenses and buy uniforms and books, Berry said.
“Out of the 43 schools, we turn out more graduates than the 68 community colleges,” Berry said. “The community colleges get more money than we do even though we turn out more graduates.”
Berry said The Academy of Public Works at PTEC trains city employees for certification in storm water or sewage treatment.
“If a municipality needs something, we provide it for them,” Berry said. “A lot of their stuff is green.”
High school dropouts learn welding and carpentry at PTEC through WorkNet Pinellas grants. Berry said the students are paid a stipend for attending class and are required to work at Habitat for Humanity as part of their training. At least 50 percent of the students in the grant program must earn their GEDs.
Berry also said the St. Petersburg PTEC site has the largest covered construction worksite in the state and offers ten different programs in building construction.
John Lambert, a state-licensed contractor, teaches Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning certification (HVAC), which is divided into four training blocks.
“We have different exit points and you can leave with a certificate in a particular career in HVAC,” Lambert said.
Lance Piscatelly, a health care student, worked as a CNC machinist for 20 years and just started the PTEC program in August.
“I got laid off and it was the third time in 20 years,” Piscatelly said. “I don’t want to go through that again.”
Faith-based organizations also provide basic skills and work-readiness training for the underserved in the community. Pastor Sam Infanzon of The St. Petersburg Dream Center created a re-entry program earlier this year for ex-offenders and the unemployed. He wanted to offer entry-level green jobs in landscaping, bicycle and lawnmower repair but could not get the project started.
“I couldn’t get the funding,” Infanzon said. “People in the community are out of work and cannot donate.”