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Big donation seeks to send hundreds of Tampa Bay students into high-paying, in-demand jobs

Tuesday morning, Bank of America is awarding a $1 million grant to St. Petersburg College
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Posted at 7:49 AM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 07:49:39-05

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Setting students up for success is the goal of a new million-dollar grant that Bank of America will award to St. Petersburg College Tuesday morning.

The donation is expected to create a large and relatively quick impact by sending a minimum of 500 students into stable careers.

According to Dr. Tonjua Williams, the President of St. Petersburg College, the grant will help establish a new program and office on campus that will act as a “workforce pipeline” in funneling students from the classroom into high-demand jobs in information technology (IT), business, and professional services. Ultimately, it hopes to build a “sustainable talent ecosystem” for those industries.

“This is an opportunity for education and the workforce to come together for the good of the people they serve,” said Williams.

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Bill Goede, the President of Bank of America Tampa Bay, said the industries the program will target are struggling to find qualified workers and fill unfilled positions as the regional economy grows.

“There was a need for skilled labor before, and then you take just the general growth that was happening right here in Tampa Bay, and then you layer in what the workforce environment looks like post-COVID, and I think that just makes the need even greater,” he said. “How do you shorten that gap between education and employment and get the colleges talking to the employers who have access to those higher-wage jobs that come with benefits?”

In a Tuesday morning ceremony at 11 a.m. at the St. Petersburg College EpiCenter building in Clearwater, Goede and Dr. Williams will announce the partnership.

“The work that we’re doing with Bank of America is going to ensure that at least more than 500 people join the ranks of being self-sufficient in having a better life. And I think that that’s the mission of the community college — to meet the needs of the workforce,” explained Williams. “We’re going to be focusing a lot on our students within poverty zip codes, and our minority students who might not have availed themselves to these kinds of careers.”

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Arielle Richardson, a St. Petersburg College student who said her college experience has already helped her find business success, hopes fellow students will take advantage of the new opportunity, which she views as a direct pathway to financial success.

“Because that’s what we want. We want to go to school and we want to get paid for the time we spent in school,” she said. “But there are so many students that struggle with ‘am I getting the right degree for the job that I want at the end?’”

While the program will focus on St. Petersburg College, Williams hopes to collaborate with other colleges as well in an effort to benefit students across Tampa Bay.

Students or parents interested in the program can contact Belinthia Berry, the St. Petersburg College Dean of Workforce, at Berry.Belinthia@spcollege.edu.

According to Bank of America, the grant is part of the bank’s $1.25 billion, five-year commitment “to help advance racial equality and economic opportunity.”