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Adult education center would help boost Hernando's economy

Adults seeking vocational training shouldn't have to leave Hernando County to get it. And a community that wants to diversify a struggling economy too reliant on home construction and service industry jobs shouldn't continue to let that happen.

It is just one of the challenges facing Hernando County's economic development: The local workforce is predominately unskilled and those trying to obtain job training must travel to Pasco or Citrus counties to attend classes offered by those school districts.

Hernando County should be able to offer similar educational opportunities to its adult population, but nothing has progressed beyond the talking stages. Making this a reality should move higher up the to-do list because of the correlation among educational attainment, higher employment and better wages.

The school district already is equipped with a logical location — the Nature Coast Technical High School that potentially could double as an adult education center during evenings and summers.

Certainly cost is a consideration. A school district that has had to cut individual school budgets, lay off employees, charge new fees and eliminate some busing will be hard-pressed to absorb an added expense. But if every other district in bay area can afford to staff an adult vocational center, then why can't Hernando?

Just look at the abundant need.

A survey last year of Career Central clients found nearly 30 percent said they lacked appropriate educational credentials and almost 23 percent said they were missing the necessary job skills to obtain employment. Meanwhile, the county's jobless rate of 11.3 percent continues to be higher than the state and national average.

If members of the building trades are sitting around waiting on a return of the housing boom, they're "waiting on a false hope,'' said Mike McHugh, the county's business development manager.

Indeed. It takes a more sophisticated strategy than waiving impact fees to put Hernando back to work. McHugh envisions potential training in medical arts, manufacturing, computer sciences, automotives and electronics. The intent is to offer classes that would be exclusive to Hernando, rather than replicating training available elsewhere.

It is easy to say the county and school district can't afford to do this right now. More accurately, can the county and school district afford not to do this?

Adult education center would help boost Hernando's economy 09/01/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 1, 2012 10:50am]
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