BROOKSVILLE — These are hard times to be looking for work. Unemployment in Hernando County is at 12.7 percent, jobs are scarce and the organizations that assist individuals in finding work have been flooded with requests.
Two Hernando County friends want to help change that.
JB Bowles and Edward Tordesillas are opening a facility to train and help employ youth, out-of-work veterans and other unemployed residents of Hernando County.
Both work and have full-time jobs. Tordesillas is a project manager for Hillsborough County's Department of Children's Services. Bowles, who retired from the Army after 20 years, now works as a district director for LifeSouth Community Blood Center.
Together, they have founded the nonprofit Hernando Employment and Training Association, or HETA. Their mission is to boost the work force through employer-contract training, summer youth employment and career skills coaching.
One of HETA's first partners is R&M American Marine Products on Northeast Parkway. When the company moved into the county last year, they were worried about finding workers who were trained as marine joiners.
"We need(ed) someone who can handle everything — installation, sheet metal. We're going to train people to be well-rounded joiners and even master joiners," said Dan Gray, general manager of R&M.
Gray added that the company has identified a local instructor and also will bring in specialists from the parent company in Germany to provide the training.
"We have welders, we can give them the training we need to make them official marine joiners," Bowles added, recalling his conversation with Gray.
"They're used to cutting wood and building homes. Now, they'll cut metal and build ships," said Bowles. The first class for marine joiners begins in August.
HETA hopes to get funding from a variety of sources, including job-training grants. R&M has provided a startup loan, Gray said. The services will be free for participants.
The team is also developing partnerships with local employers for a summer youth program. At-risk youth ages 15 to 17 will be paired with a company for summer employment. The company hires and mentors them, but youth in the program will be paid out of HETA's donations and grants.
HETA, which plans to work closely with Career Central and the county's Office of Business Development, will set up shop on Premier Drive in the industrial park.
The training center is scheduled to open in May.
Tordesillas and Bowles are ready. "We don't like to talk about things too much," said Tordesillas. "We just like to get it done."