Inaugural group of students graduate from trade program in Lee County

Published: June 16, 2021 11:53 PM EDT
Updated: June 17, 2021 12:01 AM EDT

A group of high school students are already getting job offers. They spent their senior year learning trades such as construction, roofing and plumbing. That means they’re ready to get right into the workforce instead of going to college.

An inaugural group of trade students graduated Wednesday night from the “Train to Gain” program in Lee County.

Construction and trade businesses have a lot of work and not a lot of workers. They are struggling to find employees, so several local businesses are jumping at the opportunity to hire the graduates as soon as they can.

These students graduated from high school about a week ago. Now, they’re graduating into the work force with jobs waiting for them.

Nathaniel Diaz has several offers to choose from.

“I’m hungry to work” Diaz said. “I am hungry to go forward, and I want to work, so I’m happy that they have seen that, and that they are going to offer me something.”

It’s all thanks to “Train to Gain.” Seven Dunbar High School students spent eight weeks learning trades including construction roofing and plumbing.

“The workforce itself has not kind of flooded the gates in coming in, so there is a labor shortage,” said John Ford of Ford Drywall & Stucco Inc. “I would say that’s kind of where the trouble is, which opens up the greater career opportunity.”

“College is not for everybody. We need skilled trade workers, especially in Southwest Florida,” Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson said. “It’s a win-win win all the way around.”

It’s a win for program director Mike Love too. He’s the director of SWFL Enterprise Center and “Train to Gain”. He’s seen the students go from not knowing how to use tools to handling work like professionals.

“They never missed one day, and to see them go through the program, and now, they the opportunity to get jobs, it’s, you feel like a little daddy,” Love said.

This is the first class of students to graduate from the “Train to Gain” program. Love told us all seven will get jobs. He hopes to include students from more Southwest Florida schools next year.

With new opportunities on the horizon, Diaz says he is looking ahead to a bright future.

“Just to be successful like the American dream,” Diaz said.