Make us your home page

Hernando County job retraining program teaches shipbuilding skills

BROOKSVILLE — In a crisp, new building in the Airport Industrial Park, 16 men arrive each day for class. Some are military veterans, and some have families to support. Some have been unemployed for well over a year.

All are hopeful.

"I've worked in construction most of my life as a day laborer," said John Reis, 42, who has been out of work for nine months.

The nonprofit Hernando Employment and Training Association was created specifically to train workers like Reis in new skills and help get them back into the labor force.

The founding partner of HETA, R&M Ship Technologies USA, helped with startup funds. The course costs $5,000, but most of the students qualified for training vouchers from Career Central. Those who did not get a voucher were able to work out a payment plan.

The first class for the three-month training program began in September; there are plans for more classes next year. The marine products company hopes to employ as many of the students as possible as joiners or manufacturers for a new product line.

That will happen as soon as the company gets contracts, said J.B. Bowles, president of R&M Ship Technologies, which opened in the Airport Industrial Park this year. "When we get contracts, we need workers," he said.

And in Hernando County, where unemployment sits at 13.8 percent, a company that's hiring workers fills a desperate need.

"I want a job," said student Donald Mayberry, 57. "When you're out of work for over a year, it's ridiculous."

Mayberry sent out nearly 100 resumes after he completed a course in heavy equipment last spring.

Not a single offer came from those efforts, he said. This time, he hopes things will be different.

Students in the class were carefully screened and had to qualify to participate. They are grateful for what they see as a second chance to learn new skills or try a new line of work.

"Construction is a second language and all I've ever really known," said Kyle Fenton, 20.

Fenton and his colleagues have found great transfer of skills between building homes with wood and building ships with metal.

Once students complete the course, officials say, they can take their skills anywhere. HETA president Edward Tordesillas has made contacts with other shipbuilding and repair companies in the region.

"When we did our research," said Tordesillas, "I could only find a couple of schools in the United States that train marine joiners. We are the only ones in Florida that are doing this training."

To help students get jobs, HETA also provides students with a week's worth of training in soft skills. The group discusses resume writing, how to dress for success and even body language, said project director Alicia Berrios.

"Our goal is to get them hired," Berrios said.

Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at

Learn more: For information regarding the Hernando Employment and Training Association's upcoming classes, call (352) 593-4131.

Hernando County job retraining program teaches shipbuilding skills 11/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 28, 2009 12:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. ReliaQuest's benevolent hackers try to make companies more secure


    TAMPA — Their goal is to get in. Past a security desk, through a firewall, into a system they shouldn't have access to. Sometimes they'll look like a regular person in the lobby who innocently forgot their access badge. Most times they won't be seen at all, remotely and quietly prodding a company's systems from a …

    Angelo Castellano of Tampa works at his desk at ReliaQuest | | [CHARLIE KAIJO, Times]
  2. Despite soaring home prices, Tampa Bay still an affordable market

    Real Estate

    Times Staff Writer

    Finally, some good news for Tampa Bay home buyers. Despite rising prices, the bay area remains relatively affordable compared to many other parts of the country.

    Despite rising prices, the bay area remains relatively affordable compared to many other parts of the country. [Associated Press file photo]
  3. National economy off to a luckluster start this year


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy got off to a lackluster start during the first three months of 2017, though it enjoyed more momentum than earlier estimates indicated.

    he U.S. economy got off to a lackluster start during the first three months of 2017, though it enjoyed more momentum than earlier estimates indicated.
[Associated Press file photo]
  4. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  5. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]