So we know Governor Rick Scott visited Immokalee last week, and we know he was here to tout his job creation and economic growth agenda. What I would like to share with you, as Paul Harvey used to say, is “the rest of the story.”
The story about the program Scott visited. It’s a textbook example of a partnership involving the Collier County School District and the community, possibly a perfect partnership in that the big winner in this win-win situation is the student!
The principal of the Immokalee Technical Center (iTECH), Dorin Oxender, shares the history of the Heavy Equipment Mechanics program in his own words:
“This program was given birth by the Immokalee Foundation who connected Don Fites, the former CEO of Caterpillar, Inc., to iTECH. This program is unique in that it has been fully sponsored by the corporate support of Caterpillar and Kelly Tractor corporations in conjunction with the Caterpillar Foundation, the Don Fites Family Trust, the Patrick Kelly Family Trust, and coordinating support from the Immokalee Foundation.
“The Immokalee Foundation not only pulled the partnership together, but it continues to offer scholarship opportunities for students in need along with staff support. This Heavy Equipment Mechanics program is in its second year of instruction, serving 22 students at the current time. Students in this program are receiving state-of-the-art training using Caterpillar training materials and the heavy equipment needed to offer a real-world experience. The students leave as highly skilled mechanics in a field that is in high demand.
“Caterpillar and Kelly Tractor also serve as the program advisors assisting in curriculum development and internships for our students. The partnership pays for the instructor and equipment, but since the initial funding, Caterpillar continues to ship donated engines, transmissions, and other peripheral equipment to train with. A new M160 motor grader valued at more than $350,000 is expected to arrive shortly. We are excited!”
One other observation, how fitting it was that the governor chose one of our school district’s two post-secondary centers, the Immokalee Technical Center, as the venue for his Collier County job creation visit in that the center is a place where adults are trained for meaningful careers in more than 15 vocational certified programs.
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Joe Landon is the executive director of the Communications Services department for the Collier County School District.