CLEARWATER — With shiny white hard hats on and golden shovels in hand, groundbreaking on the nearly 20 million-dollar renovation of Pinellas Technical College’s (PTC) Clearwater campus began. Esteemed guests joined Dr. Michael Grego, Pinellas County School Superintendent, and the Pinellas County School Board for the Oct. 12 groundbreaking ceremony.
“Pinellas Technical College has been here all the time,” said Jakup Prokop, director of the Clearwater Campus “The first graduating class was in 1963. Now technical college is back in the conversation. This reconstruction will put PTC firmly on the map.”
Pinellas County Dignitaries including Mayor George Cretekos, community leaders, the Central Pinellas and Clearwater Chambers all joined students and staff for the ceremony. Hosted by Prokop, Dr. Grego, the mayor, various School Board members spoke about what PTC has brought to the community over the years and how the new facility is going to impact the educational and economic future of Pinellas County.
Rene Flowers, vice chairperson of the Pinellas County School Board, shared several heartfelt words about the future of the institution.
“We are extremely proud of the new construction that will take place so the students can move about this campus and continue to be proud about the place where they get their education.”
Dr. Grego said PTC ensures students get the training they need for the careers they want.
“Pinellas County Schools recognizes the value of providing students of all ages with skills they need to be successful and secure high-skill, high-wage jobs,” he said. “The opportunities created by career technical education improve the lives of students and the economic strength of the community”.
The renovations are slated to be completed by the end of 2018 as PTC will be celebrating nearly 50 years of accreditation through the Council of Occupational Education.
Ninety percent of the buildings will receive a facelift, including paint, lighting and a new façade. Two buildings will be completely gutted and transformed. The new configuration will allow for better utilization of the programs and facility space.
“Every program will get something as part of the project; every program will be impacted,” said Prokop.
The college campus is going to become more centralized with the administration and student services moving to the center of campus. There will be a new courtyard and new street address to drive students and visitors alike to the new center of campus.
The institutional feel will be gone and a more modern, college-going atmosphere will be created. There will be updates to the signage and exteriors of buildings as well.
Two new buildings and a working canopy will be built to support the automotive and welding programs. These buildings will create a lot more capacity to meet the growing demands of these fields. The current student services center will be transformed into a large conference center. This will be available not only for the college but will also provide centralized meeting space for the people of Pinellas County.
“We want the outside of the buildings to match the state of the art technology and teaching that are already occurring on the inside of the buildings,” beamed Prokop.
It is a high-tech training campus. The campus will have a new look that will support the renewed energy surrounding technical colleges. Additionally, there will be some infrastructure updates including new fiber optics lines that will improve the current phone system.
“The Baby-Boomer generation is retiring from industry and there is an immense need to refill those positions. That is what Pinellas Technical College does,” said Carl Lavender, Office of Workforce Innovation managing officer.
Lavender explained that in addition to the numbers retiring, 70 percent of the growth in Florida, those 60 and older are those same people moving here to enjoy their retirement. So not only is the nation losing that workforce in general, Florida will need more workers to support the increased influx of people.
“What is really going to separate Pinellas Technical College from other facilities in Florida like it is the culture, said Prokop. “The students, teachers and staff really make the college. This improvement will continue to build on the increasingly professional environment that Pinellas Technical College is becoming. The project will draw a lot of attention and generate an increased media presences to our college and educate the community on what we do here, what technical college is now.”
PTC is on the forefront of education for these types of jobs; real-world, hands-on education with instructors that have worked in the fields in which they currently instruct. PTC produces highly skilled manufacturing workers in a variety of industries and disciplines.
Programs in Air Conditioning & Heating, Refrigeration, Building Construction, Electricity, Plumbing and Welding produce employees who will make an impact from the moment they are hired. A hands-on, focused education in current best practices is the key to success.