Help Your Workforce

By Hannah Wallace March 1, 2013

Take advantage of these local educational programs to boost your employees' performance.

By Abby Weingarten

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Your business depends on employees who help you stay competitive. We asked business owners to give us their wish lists to build a better workforce. Here are five of the most common requests and five programs that can help.


1. Where can I send my employees so they can stay up-to-date with computers and software?

Try State College of Florida (SCF), Manatee-Sarasota’s continuing education classes. SCF helps small business owners who need employees who can handle payroll, create PowerPoint presentations, launch social media campaigns and maintain databases and websites.

Daisy Vulovich, associate vice president of corporate and community development, says the college has offered computer classes for about a decade, serving upwards of 10,000 students annually.

“Given the nature of the workplace today, computer literacy is as basic as reading, writing and math,” Vulovich says.

Continuing education computer classes tend to be quick and specialized, and can be held on campus or right in the workplace. SCF offers beginner classes such as Excel Level 1, Excel Level 2 and Computer Basics, as well as digital photography and Photoshop.

“We will come out to a company and work with their team to determine what they need employees to do. Maybe they’re tracking their financial statements in a different way and need help,” Vulovich says. “It might be medical billing software for a hospital or computer training for a law office. A major real estate company recently put virtually all its staff through Microsoft Office training. It is customized to a company’s needs and wants.”

Costs: Could be as low as $50 for an employee, but fees vary based upon course length, customizing and the company’s needs.

State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, 5840 26th St. W., Bradenton, (941) 752-5252,


Sarasota County Technical Institute, 4748 Beneva Road, Sarasota, (941) 924-1365,; and Manatee Technical Institute, 5603 34th St. W., Bradenton, (941) 751-7900,


2. I want to promote some of my employees, but they need better management skills. What program would be best?

One strong option is the Master of Business Administration program at University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Business. It is the only local program accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a distinction 10 percent of business schools worldwide have received.

The college’s 2012 graduating class ranked in the 97th percentile, meaning out of 250 institutions and 14,000 students who took the test, only three percent of the students tested higher than USFSM’s group.

An M.B.A. can translate into a $10,000 boost in annual salary and allow employees to move up in their careers, according to Aaron Reecher, the university’s longtime M.B.A. program specialist. The incentive is also great for employers, who often pick up at least some of the $453.81 per-credit-hour tuition cost. Not only do professional M.B.A. grads develop leadership skills and master new technology, but they also join 3M.B.A. networks that will bring them (and their company) increased exposure, Reecher says.

The average age of students in the program is 33. “They’re coming from all fields, but I’d say 50 percent are in the business field,” Reecher says. “Many applicants are coming from the health industry. Employees are being asked to run their departments. A bachelor’s degree is not enough anymore.”

Costs: $453.81 per credit hour for Florida residents (professional program is typically 39 credit hours).

USF Sarasota-Manatee, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 359-4200,


Argosy University, 5250 17th St., Sarasota, (941) 379-0404,; and Webster University, 8043 Cooper Creek Blvd., Suite 101, University Park, (941) 444-2481,


3. I run a small business with limited personnel, but I am expanding and incorporating new equipment. How can I train my existing employees to grow with the company?

First stop should be CareerEdge Funders Collaborative: Manatee-Sarasota Workforce Solutions.

When new technology—medical equipment in a hospital for example—enters the office environment, employees must jump to master it. CareerEdge Funders Collaborative is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bolstering employee skills, and its program to advance existing employees is called “career laddering.”

This approach can be cost-efficient since it works with existing employees rather than forcing a company to do a costly and time-consuming search and then train brand-new employees. Employees like it because it offers advancement as well as a pay raise.

CareerEdge has partnered with different companies in Sarasota and Manatee, such as bandage manufacturer Aso Corporation and North Port cabinetry maker The Adams Group, and has worked with area hospitals as well.

Veronica Lequeux, vice president of human resources and staff development at Blake, says Blake used CareerEdge to offer certification preparation for its central supply techs, who must procure supplies, sterilize equipment and provide support for different areas of a hospital or clinic. “We have also been able to provide our certified nursing assistants an improved skill set via our Sitter Program, which enables trained individuals to pick up extra hours of work as sitters for patients,” she says.

The CareerEdge partnership has helped Blake exceed “Provisional Trauma Status” and receive a full designation as a trauma center. Because of this new designation, more than 740 employees are being prepared for new programs at Blake, such as the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) Program and the newly accredited Breast Center.

“Our focus is always helping entry to mid-level employees achieve their highest earning and career potential,” says Jennifer Carp, senior program director at CareerEdge.

Costs: Without grants, the cost could be anywhere from a couple thousand to tens of thousands, depending on the stage and capacity of the company.

CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, 602 Third St. E., Suite B, Bradenton, (941) 744-2661,


4. Many of my employees lack financial literacy, which leads to high turnover since they have poor credit scores, don’t save and can’t finance cars, for example. Where can I find them some help?

Manatee Community Federal Credit Union (MCFCU) is one excellent source.

The not-for-profit financial cooperative offers numerous workshops—among them “Building a Better Budget,” “Improve Your Financial Health and Fitness” and “Understanding Your Credit”—that have helped local workers feel more confident in their money-managing abilities, says Sherod Halliburton, executive vice president of strategic initiatives.

Applying the curriculum from a national organization called BALANCE, the credit union has conducted courses for Suncoast Workforce and CareerEdge Funders Collaborative. MCFCU also conducts a monthly series in partnership with the Manatee Community Action Agency.

“We now offer more than 21 workshops online ( and as well as access to live counselors to address any of their financial needs or questions”, says Halliburton. “All the programming BALANCE offers is free for credit union members.”

Halliburton recalls the story of one trainee, a single mother working in the medical field who took MCFCU’s budgeting and credit courses in December. She was able to manage her budget well enough to finance an automobile to get to work and keep her job. She learned how to re-establish her credit, build emergency accounts, track spending and map out long-term financial goals. Without that assistance, she would have likely been facing unemployment, Halliburton says.

Costs: Free for members.

Manatee Community Federal Credit Union, 604 13th Ave. E., Bradenton, (941) 748-7704,


5. What counseling programs are available for employees with drug addiction problems?

Employee drug addiction costs the United States economy hundreds of billions annually due to lost productivity, healthcare fees and crime.

Manatee Glens Mental Health and Addictions Specialty Hospital and Outpatient Practice can help businesses combat this alarming dilemma.

Cheryl Libera, director of social services and outpatient practice at Manatee Glens, specializes in treating employees with mental health and substance abuse problems. “We are contracted with a variety of employers, so we provide employee assistance programs, some of which are free,” Libera says. In the addiction center, clients work with case managers to discuss “back-to-work issues,” she says.

Libera and her team offer programs that address such issues as returning to the workforce, interviewing skills  and conducting job searches.

For employees who need more than occasional individual therapy, Manatee Glens offers a 28-day residential treatment program as well as a six-week, intensive outpatient program.

“In the restaurant and service industries, drugs are rampant. We helped one young man who was working in restaurants find a different environment, a dinner theater, where he could use his same skill set but not be surrounded by bad influences,” Libera says.

Costs: Some assistance is free, but fees vary by program and are based on a sliding scale.

Manatee Glens, 391 Sixth Ave. W., Bradenton, (941) 782-4299,


Coastal Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., 1565 State St., Sarasota, (941) 927-8900,; and First Step of Sarasota, 4579 Northgate Court, Sarasota, (941) 366-5333,

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