An old business axiom goes something like Don’t forget to celebrate your successes. Well, here’s one: The University of South Florida teaming up with the co-founder of one of the area’s corporate stars to create a development center that will help ensure that students have the skills and training to launch their careers. The program should close the gap between academia and what employers want from new recruits, a real-world challenge that faces many universities. It should help USF students find fulfilling jobs, while benefiting businesses with better-trained homegrown talent.
For years, too many of the Tampa Bay area’s most talented people left the area for greener employment pastures, often never to move back. The departures left a gaping hole in the area’s workforce, one that held back the local economy, or at least that was the perception. Now, the Tampa Bay area still competes for skilled workers, but the gap isn’t as wide. More college graduates are sticking around or are attracted to the area from other locales. Arnie Bellini would like to continue that trend.
In 1982, Bellini co-founded Tampa’s ConnectWise, an IT support firm. Back then, the USF graduate sensed that there were enough talented people around, if only he could keep them in the area and get them to work for his company. “Going to USF, I knew a lot of my fellow colleagues at USF were really smart people,” he said recently. “If I could just get them to come work with me, well gosh, that would take care of the business itself and the talent pipeline. So we did that.” It paid off. ConnectWise sold in 2019 for $1.5 billion, reportedly turning 70 of its employees into millionaires.
After the sale, Bellini and wife Lauren said they wanted to create 70,000 high-paying, high-tech jobs in the region. A lofty goal, but why not aim high? To that end, the Bellinis want to make sure that the talent pipeline remains robust. They donated $10.6 million to help USF launch the Bellini Talent Development Center, a 9,000-square foot building on the Tampa campus. This isn’t just a building; the idea is to infuse the core business curriculum with training provided by businesses looking to hire the students. The center will also offer certificate programs, career services and help with internship placement, the Times reported. It’s where academia meets the real business world — a smart partnership that benefits students and local companies.
At the center’s launch last week, Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem reiterated the aspiration of someday promising students that if they didn’t have a job upon graduation the school would pay back their tuition. Again, a lofty goal. But the new development center should help the business college on its way to getting there. And, if — or when — it does, we should stop to celebrate that success, too.
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