Skills in Demand As Economy Rebounds

Employers cast net to fill skilled labor positions throughout Sumter County.

Author: Patricia Steele is a staff writer with The Villages Daily Sun. She can be reached at 753–1119, ext. 9029, or patricia.steele(3) thevillagesmedia.com.

Sean Stevenson welds a barrier wall plate Tuesday at SalesCorp USA in Wildwood.
Sean Stevenson welds a barrier wall plate Tuesday at SalesCorp USA in Wildwood.

WILDWOOD

The help-wanted signs are everywhere.

Throughout Sumter County, employers are looking for skilled workers. Galaxy Home Solutions needs electricians. Envirosafe in Bushnell is looking for pipe fitters, painters and welders. Sun Kool Air Conditioning Inc. needs heating and air conditioning technicians.

Businesses are ready to grow, helped by a positive business environment.

Bill Keen, owner of SalesCorp USA and chairman of Sumter County’s Industrial Development Authority, credits County Administrator Bradley Arnold and Sumter County commissioners with being proactive in helping grow local businesses and bringing new ones to Sumter.

With the economy improving, job listings continue to increase across Central Florida. As of Friday, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity listed nearly 500 open jobs in Sumter, including many in technical fields, such as relay technician, project engineer, electrician or diesel mechanic.

The problem is finding enough skilled workers, said Steve Munz, of Galaxy Home Solutions, who has a help wanted sign in front of his business.

“It’s more than knowing how to wire a house,” Munz said. “It’s about the desire to do a good job, be on time, be good with customer service. It’s multiple skills that are needed.”

Munz is looking to add to his workforce of 165 employees.

He wants someone who is dependable, shows up every day and on time, wants to work, want to learn and move up in the company, has a positive attitude, and understands that it’s the customer who makes the job possible in the first place.

“I can teach someone to wire a house, or install a home theater, but I have to know the person is trustworthy and dedicated,” Munz said.

Keen and Munz have businesses based in Wildwood.

Munz primarily serves The Villages with his electrical business and his numerous other businesses, including home-cleaning, lawn care and landscaping, a porter service that cleans shopping center parking lots and storefronts, and even a white-tail deer farm.

Keen’s business is global. SalesCorp USA does business with companies all over the world. The staff of 30 uses computer-controlled, robotic machining and welding equipment, making small precision devices and colossal steel formations.

“We make concrete connectors for high-rise buildings, bridges, stadiums, and our products go all over the world,” Keen said. “And we thrive on the rush jobs. We maygetan order on Thursday and have to ship before the weekend’s over.”

But the whole process slows down without enough workers.

ΕDUCΑΤΙΝG ΤΗΕ WORKFORCE

Sumter County’s economic plan points out the importance of vocational, postsecondary and workforce training in developing and maintaining a skilled workforce. From certificates to degrees, quality secondary education builds an employee base that attracts businesses with good-paying jobs.

Sumter Adult Education has an ongoing certification program in air conditioning, heating and refrigeration. The 250-hour program meets Monday through Thursday evenings at Wildwood Middle High School.

Israel Razo, of Center Hill, recently started the third course in the program.

“I wanted a change,” Razo said. “I was working

construction in Orlando, and I realized I wanted to work closer to home, and I wanted something different.”

The program offers three courses: HVAC Helper, Mechanic Assistant and Mechanic 1. Each course stands alone and those who finish receive a completion certificate, but those who take all three may test and receive a ready-to-work certificate, course instructor Jason Chesser said.

Razo is now in his final course, and he’s already working in the field.

“After the first course, Isent out emails to a number of HVAC businesses in the area,” Razo said. “I interviewed at Munn’s and got the job. That was eight months ago, and it’s a job I really like.”

Within a 30-mile radius of most areas of Sumter County are two technical colleges, Withlacoochee Technical and Lake Tech, as well as Lake Sumter State College.

All three institutions have certificate programs that offer a careerinayear, as well as two- and four-year degrees in a variety of technical and medical fields.

The Sumter County high schools also have school-to-work certificate programs in fields including certified nursing assistants, early childhood development, criminal justice, auto tech, business and agri-science including bio-tech.

DEALING WITH ΤΗΕ SΗΟRΤΑGΕ

Even with all these opportunities for training, sometimes the best solution for employers like Munz and Keen is to train employees themselves.

“If somebody comes in with a desire to work and wants to learn, I’ll train them or send them to be trained,” Keen said.

Munz also uses on-the-job training, and he is always looking for different ways to find workers.

“I recruit from around the state, and even have employees that moved from Puerto Rico to work,” Munz said.

He also partners with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and its work-release program.

Qualified candidates can work with him to learn a trade.

“This is win-win for everyone,” Munz said. “These are people who are ready to be released, they want to learn a skill, they want to work and they want to change their lives. I’m more than willing to help make a difference and help someone when I can.”