Public Works program at PTC offers 14 career tracks.
BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – From road maintenance to surveying, to water reclamation, public works are an integral part of maintaining a city.
For anyone interested in such a career, Pinellas Technical College (PTC) offers its Public Works program that has 14 career tracks. These include solid waste, wastewater treatment, water distribution, construction, parks and management/supervision, and there are hundreds of jobs available within those tracks.
“The beautiful part of the Public Works program is that we’re a career exploration type program,” explained PTC instructor Peter Cavalli. “You get to taste a little bit of all of them.”
This includes taking field trips around the county and listening to industry professionals speak about their own experiences in public works. Cavalli, who has been a public works director in the county, said all this helps the students explore options and figure out which direction they wish to take.
“Once they figure out where they want to go, they either get a job in their field and continue their education either through an apprenticeship program or getting higher level certificates or go through some advanced training,” he said. “Or some of them do the training and then get the job.”
The Public Works Academy is three-pronged, he explained, which includes the 14-week cadet program, the apprenticeship program and the continuing education program, in which students can obtain advanced-level certificates. There is also a dual enrollment program where students can earn credits at the Public Works Academy while still attending high school.
Field trips for students include such location as South Cross Bayou Water Reclamation Facility, Pinellas County Waste-to-Energy Facility, Clearwater Gas and the Florida Botanical Gardens.
The Public Works cadet program courses at PTC require 450 hours, which includes hands-on work, and students must put together an agenda item before they graduate, Cavalli said.
“They would write that document up, the agenda item,” he stated, “they would learn how to do a spreadsheet to support that agenda item; they would learn how to do a PowerPoint presentation.”
At the end, students will actually have to stand up in front of their peers and instructors and present a proposal the way a public works manager would.
“We act like city council and we ask them questions as they’re going through and doing their proposal.”
PTC assists with finding the students employment, and over the years the placement rate remains high, fluctuating between about 80 percent and 95 percent. Students age vary as the cadet program has attracted a wide range of people from high school students to people in their 60s.
“Some of the people that are in our apprenticeship program and continuing education are in their late 60s,” Cavalli said. “Some of them may be engineers and are continuing on and getting those other certifications.”
Cavalli said PTC is considering an on-campus facility management component for students to perform actual maintenance tasks as part of their internship, adding that all that is just one of the 14 tracks of Public Works, which includes stormwater, solid waste, roadway maintenance, surveying and mapping, utilities and so much more.
How important is an efficient public works system to the community? Without one in place, cities as we know them simply would not exist.
“It’s really the foundation of civilization if you ask me,” Cavalli said.
Cadet program spring session at PTC begins April 10. For more info, visit publicworksacademy.org, or call (727) 893-2500.
To reach Frank Drouzas, email firstname.lastname@example.org