New grant helps Tampa non-profit continue training community for trade jobs

Trade jobs are in high demand, and a new grant is helping a Tampa non-profit continue training the community for the industry. 

New classes and new skills led Morgan Erkard to a new version of himself.

"It's a really, really big transition from putting on gloves and washing your hands every 20 minutes to actually getting your hands dirty deliberately," said Erkard, who used to work as a home health aide in the healthcare industry in 2021. "I had just gotten married, and I was just looking for something stable with more hours, with something to do with my hands. 

So he learned about construction through the Pre-Apprenticeship to Hire program at Corporation to Develop Communities (CDC) of Tampa, graduating with a certificate in construction in December 2021.

"A certification, nobody can take that away from you," said Erkard. "It meant everything to me. It really did. It secured my future."

CDC of Tampa helps communities, especially those underserved, get a valuable leg up in and out of classrooms.

"They can get exposed to electrical, plumbing, carpentry or welding and then decide which avenue they want to take," said David Jones, the director of workforce development with CDC of Tampa.

READ: 'Addressing the biggest needs': Community Foundation spreads help across Tampa Bay area

A $200,000 USAA grant will now keep the training free to those who apply, a huge help especially after the pandemic.

"They begin to tell you how it affected their lives either, ‘Hey, I just purchased a home, I just purchased a car,’ or ‘My family is doing this now because of this money,’" said Jones.

Erkard said the program helped him land an electrician apprenticeship in January 2022 that he stayed in for nearly a year before he shifted his focus to pull his ultimate dream job closer.

"Well, my career path now, it deals a little bit of finances. With project managing at construction site, you have to know what material is going to cost, what for the longevity of time, for what budget you have, so potentially that could catapult me to a project manager just because of my knowledge," said Jones.

All it took was an application and faith in a new trade.

"Once you've got that underneath your belt, the sky's the limit," said Erkard.

CDC of Tampa also uses county and federal grants to help fund the job training classes. They also help the grants have helped hundreds of students over the years start sustainable career paths and close those income gaps.