By Rachel Christian
Two white buckets overflowing with Kit-Kat bars acted as sweet symbolism at a Valencia groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.
The Kit-Kats, perched on the plow of a bulldozer, were a nod to the construction of two new buildings on Valencia’s Osceola County campus – Careers in Industry and Technology (CIT) building and the Center for Accelerated Technology (CAT).
But the buildings will contribute much more than catchy acronyms. They will house new,
short-term training programs aimed at boosting employee wages for in-demand jobs.
“Not all jobs require a bachelor’s degree. Not all jobs even require an associate’s degree,” said Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia’s Poinciana, Lake Nona and Osceola campuses. “But essentially all new jobs require some education beyond high school.”
According to a recent Georgetown University study, 11.6 million U.S. jobs have been created since 2009. Yet, only 80,000 of those jobs went to individuals with only a high school diploma.
The idea behind Valencia’s new short-term training programs is to teach blue-collar workers desirable job skills that will translate into higher wages and a better quality of life for residents.
Sandy Shugart, president and CEO of Valencia, said the college’s goal is to train 5,000 people each year through these accelerate six-week to six-month programs.
“The notion there is that over a five-year period, 25,000 families will be delivered from hand-to-mouth work to a sustainable living wage,” Shugart said. “And that changes everything.”
Construction on the CAT building is set to wrap up in just nine months. Once complete, the facility will be home base for training programs like construction, transportation logistics and clinical medical assisting.
It will also offer language courses such as intensive English and conversational Spanish.
The much larger CIT building will be complete about a year later, and include classrooms for both training and associate degree programs like engineering technology and hospitality management.
The two facilities will add a combined 50,700 square feet of instructional space to the Osceola County campus.
Local and state leaders championed CIT and CAT as a gateway opportunity for low-income Osceola County residents.
“This is awesome, I’m so ecstatic about this whole system,” said State Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee. “We’re going to keep working to make this a better community, so that everyone can have a job.”