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A Tampa Bay area job training program will expand thanks to a federal grant

AmSkills students around a table, learning about manufacturing
AmSkills has held seven training "boot camps" around the Tampa Bay region since 2020.

Robots are the future of manufacturing. AmSkills, a workforce training program in the Tampa Bay region, wants to prepare people for jobs in these fields.

When you think of Florida’s economy, manufacturing may not be the first thing that comes to mind. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, it makes up about 4% of the state's workforce.

Tom Mudano wants to change that.

Mudano is CEO of AmSkills. Based in Pasco County, it’s developed a mobile classroom that sets up in economically disadvantaged communities. Anyone with a high school diploma or GED can sign up.

“A lot of people don't know how prevalent manufacturing is right here in the Tampa Bay region," Mudano said. "Tampa Bay has the most number of manufacturers in the state of Florida.”

“Wherever that location is, we will identify hiring companies within a 15-mile radius, and we recruit from within that 15-mile radius," Mudano said. "That way, we're recruiting people, potential candidates that could potentially work close to where they live.”

Mudano says 113 people graduated from the program in 2020 and 2021, and 74% of them were hired into manufacturing jobs. That success rate caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Labor, which has awarded AmSkills a $1.4 million grant to buy another mobile classroom. It will focus on training workers to use robotic equipment in factories.

"They get to explore robotics in a virtual setting, and things that you can't normally do in a safe way," Mudano said.

In addition to the new mobile classroom, AmSkills is working to build a workforce training center in Holiday.

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.