Bradenton’s Andy Ryan was working in the service industry in retail sales when the pandemic started in March 2020.
He was furloughed, but he still needed a way to provide for his family.
“It seemed like a good time to go back to school because there’s kind of a cap on what I could make selling jewelry at Zales,” Ryan said.
Ryan heard positive feedback about Manatee Technical College and was considering earning industry certifications through the technical college when he found out about MTC’s rapid credentialing project.
The rapid credentialing project provides a way for MTC to help people whose employment has been adversely affected by the pandemic to get back into the workforce.
Ryan decided to apply for the cybersecurity program within the rapid credentialing project. Through his research, he saw that cybersecurity was a growing industry and he always had an interest in information technology.
Before Ryan finished the Applied Cybersecurity program at MTC in 2021, he accepted a job offer with the School District of Manatee County.
“I was nervous at first when I started because it’s my first job in a new industry and having only taken this one class,” Ryan said. “After I was there for a few weeks, if anything, that one class has overqualified me for this position.”
The rapid credentialing project helped 116 students earn 159 industry certifications in programs such as Advanced Manufacturing and Production Technology, Phlebotomy, Nursing Assistant and more.
“It was great because it was a nice, short program for a very in-demand career,” said Linda Chamberlain, the teacher of MTC’s Phlebotomy program. “It’s such a great opportunity for someone to switch gears in life, change the direction of their career paths and be able to complete that in such a short period of time.”
After seeing the success of the 2020-2021 rapid credentialing project, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education awarded MTC a $550,000 grant this month to continue the project. The grant is through the Emergency Education Relief Fund under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
In spring 2022, students can apply for the rapid credentialing project in programs including Phlebotomy, Advanced Manufacturing, Entry-Level Driving and Marketing, Management and Entrepreneurial Principles as well as Global Logistics and Supply Chain Distribution.
The project helps students transition into potential new careers in a faster time period than participating in a regular program at MTC or pursuing other post secondary education.
“I’ve tried to do your traditional colleges before, and they weren’t for me because there were a lot of extra classes you have to take that don’t relate to what you’re interested in at all,” Ryan said. “It was nice to have it be this one class that I’m taking and I’m able to focus on this.”
Chamberlain said the rapid credentialing project helps graduates get their foot in the door for new careers and can be used as a stepping stone to advance.
Ryan, Chamberlain and Gil Burlew, the instructor for MTC’s Advanced Manufacturing program, all said the students graduating from programs in the rapid credentialing project help fill the demand for people in those industries.
“It takes a lot of pressure off knowing I was able to go right into work,” Ryan said. “It gives me a lot of optimism for my career and the future. It made me feel a little validated that I was smart enough to switch from a retail job to having an intellectually challenging IT job.”
Burlew said “some of the greatest companies” in Florida and around the country are hiring his Advanced Manufacturing students. The program has 100% job placement for students, he said.
“Advanced Manufacturing is a game changer, a life changer for so many of my students,” Burlew said. “There is a waitlist for companies that want to hire my people. There is such a demand right now in manufacturing for skilled workers.”
For phlebotomy, Chamberlain said graduates aren’t limited to only working in a hospital setting. There are other opportunities within physician’s offices, outpatient laboratory facilities and different departments within hospitals.
“Manatee Technical College has a very good reputation for the quality of students, so we’re able to fill that community need and because of the reputation they know they’re getting good graduates,” Chamberlain said. “Being able to do that in such a short period of time to fill such a big need is extremely important.”
Working at the School District of Manatee County as computer lab manager at Martha B. King Middle School provided Ryan with flexibility so he could drop off and pick up his children from school every day and be on break at the same time as his children. The job also provides him with learning materials that allows him to further advance his knowledge and career in cybersecurity.
“Now that I’ve started, I find (cybersecurity) incredibly interesting,” Ryan said. “It lines up with a lot of my natural inclinations, and it’s going to be a good fit for me in the future.”