Whether you are manufacturing secret widgets for the U.S. Department of Defense or selling what you are certain is the best barbecue in Brooksville, education and training make a difference.
Across Hernando County, workshops and classes are available from familiar places like Pasco-Hernando Community College and the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, as well as lesser-known institutions such as the Hernando Education and Training Association and the Medical Training Classes Technical School.
And if you happen to be out of work, new skills just might be your ticket to employment.
Ask Rick Fenton, 48, whose last job as a general contractor was building Regency Oaks Offices in the industrial park at the Hernando County Airport, just in time to house the newly formed Hernando Education and Training Association. Then he was laid off.
HETA's first course offering?
Training construction workers in the ways of shipbuilding. Fenton signed up.
In December, he graduated with HETA's first class and was soon hired by R&M Ship Technologies USA.
This month, he was promoted to project manager.
For someone seeking to shore up skills, educational opportunities in Hernando County run the gamut. Creating a business plan? Check. Lean manufacturing? Check. Networking to grow your business? Check. Home health care? Check.
Ricky Burkes, 28, had been out of work a month when a friend suggested Medical Training Classes Technical School in Brooksville. Within a few weeks, Burkes had completed both classroom and clinical sessions to be a nursing assistant.
Last week, he started his new job with Guardian Angels as a home health aide.
HETA and MTC Tech are both relative newcomers to the county's training provider list. They both work closely with Career Central to secure grants for qualified students, and the leaders at both institutions are passionate about their role in helping individuals get back to work.
"When you see the results of the training, it's great," said Alicia Berrios, project director for HETA.
They've kept close tabs on their recent graduates at HETA to ensure they find employment. So far, 10 of 15 have jobs. The remaining five have had interviews and are hoping to hear back shortly, said HETA president Edward Tordesillas.
MTC Tech director Vanessa Guy echoed that enthusiasm.
"We're here to see people succeed," Guy said. "My instructors will work extra time; they will go over things."
Stephanie Nix, 31, recently completed a nursing assistant course with MTC Tech.
"I loved the school; I loved the people," Nix said. "They're really concerned about your education."
Nix is working on getting her state certification and looks forward to working as a certified nursing assistant.
For individuals considering an independent path as an entrepreneur, the Service Corps of Retired Executives offers a series of workshops and free consultations, which range from writing a business plan to securing a small business loan.
In addition, the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce has created a new Business Training Academy.
A series of free workshops is available this week as part of the academy's grand opening. Course titles include Communicating Like a Pro, Beyond the Basics of Stress Management, Running Your Business During a Family Crisis and Easy Web Solutions for Your Business.
For industry looking to improve quality and efficiency, the U.S. Department of Defense recently sponsored a daylong Lean Manufacturing workshop through the Florida Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
The hands-on simulation included strategies to streamline production and eliminate wasted time and steps.
"Operators should set up like surgeons," said Dan Sutter, senior project manager with the manufacturing extension partnership. "If you're laying there for open heart surgery, you don't want him to say, 'Scalpel ... oh, shoot, I think Fred has it.' "
The largest training and educational institution in the region is Pasco-Hernando Community College, which offers courses, programs and degrees.
In addition, the corporate training arm of PHCC offers more than 100 noncredit online training programs through Gatlin Education. Training programs vary from casino blackjack dealer and modern automotive service technician to personal fitness trainer and video game design and development.
PHCC recently announced an online partnership with ToolingU, which provides courses specifically for the manufacturing industry.
They're different from other online courses, because they are meant to be coupled with existing on-site training, said Anne Kibbe, director of corporate training for PHCC.
ToolingU has more than 400 course titles, ranging from machine operation to welding maintenance.
PHCC corporate training also offers human resource development programs on topics such as anger management and business ethics.
And for those seeking a bachelor's or master's degree, PHCC has recently partnered with Hodges University for programs in interdisciplinary studies, management and criminal justice.
Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.