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USF to offer new personal financial planning degree

The University of South Florida will be offering a new bachelor’s degree program next fall to meet a growing demand for personal financial planners, who help people manage their retirement accounts.

“The average person now is retiring with a defined contribution program. They don’t know what to do with it themselves,” says Dr. Laura Mattia, Program Director of Personal Financial Planning, who was hired to start the degree program. “They’re looking for somebody that can provide them with good advice.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook shows there is “much faster than average” growth expected in the personal financial advisors’ field, with jobs projected to increase 30 percent between 2014 and 2024.

Florida, known for its retirement communities, is one of the states with the most opportunities, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Annual mean wages were $123,690, or $59.47 an hour in Florida in 2016.

Baby boomers are hitting retirement age at a time when people are living longer. Some retirees may live without regular income for 35 years, Mattia points out.

A 30-year veteran of the finance industry, she notes the need to ensure vulnerable people are not deceived by unethical -- or uneducated -- advisers. As an example, she describes a 70-year-old woman, too old to go back to work, whose “nest egg is gone,” because she was too trusting.

Industry leaders are recognizing that their advisers are aging and they need to beef up the employee pipeline for the future, she explains.

“The financial service industry is waiting for these students,” she asserts.

Students in the degree program should have a desire to work with people. They will need problem solving and analytical skills.

“This is not heavy math. It’s kind of basic, maybe algebra,” she explains. “I don’t want to scare certain people that might be very good at this,” she says.

The program will meet educational requirements for the Certified Financial Planner exam, including courses on planning for insurance, income tax, investment, retirement and estates. It also is expected to include internship opportunities.

A kickoff event is scheduled from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. April 20 at the USF Muma College of Business on the Tampa campus. The program includes networking and a discussion panel, including representatives of Raymond James, Charles Schwab, SunTrust Investment Services, Inc. and Financial Planning and Advice.

The new USF program will be second such program in the state, Dr. Mattia says.

The University of North Florida in Jacksonville already offers a Certified Financial Planner certification program.

For additional information, contact Mattia or USF Admissions.

Natural gas-powered buses ready to roll in Pasco County

Pasco County Schools will soon be the first in Florida to build and run their own fast-fill compressed natural gas station. The first of its natural-gas buses will arrive in mid-May, when they will be completing the new gas station just south of State Road 54 along Interlaken Road north of Tampa.

“We are about a month away from taking ownership,” says Tad Kledzik, Manager of Transportation Services. “We will begin operations with start of the fiscal year [July 1].”

Thirty 2017 Bluebird Vision CNG buses will begin arriving, three at time, in mid-May, and be phased into the existing fleet of more than 400 buses. Some 48 of them are propane, which use the same motor but a different fuel.

Each bus costs about $130,000, about $30,000 more than a diesel bus.

Pasco County Schools are investing $3 million each in their fast-fill station and a maintenance, operations and parking facility for the new natural gas-powered buses. The district is expecting to pay an additional $3.9 million for the first 30 buses and potentially a total of $11.7 million for 90 natural gas buses at the facility. It also would use some 10 to 12 diesel buses already in the fleet.

There are a number of advantages of the buses fueled by gas from Louisiana and Texas, which is piped into Florida at Jacksonville.

“The big thing ... is cleaner emission,” Kledzik says.

It’s also less noisy, a plus when hauling a bus-load full of talking children. “That allows our drivers to hear a little bit better on the bus as to what is going on,” he says.

As a domestic source of fuel, CNG is less volatile in price. The ability to essentially lock-in the price gives the district a greater ability to manage finance costs. “What happens elsewhere is less likely to impact the cost of CNG here,” he explains. “There’s enough CNG here in the U.S. to meet certainly our needs and many more needs.”

The district has tapped into the system in the Odessa area. The CNG will be provided by Clearwater Gas.

A grand opening is scheduled at 9 am. May 16, says spokeswoman Linda Cobbe. The new buses will roll for the 2017-18 school year.

The district began looking into alternative fuel sources in 2012, before buses like these existed, Kledzik says. The vision for CNG came from Deputy Superintendent Ray Gadd.

Though the Pasco district will be the first to build and operate its own station, others are already going green with CNG buses using third-party fuel providers. “Leon [County’s school district] has a similar facility to what we’re producing right now. Leon entered into contract with a 3rd party provider,” he says.

In the Tampa Bay area, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority became the first public transit authority in Florida to begin converting from diesel to CNG in 2014, according to Sandra Morrison, Public Information Officer.

HART currently runs 34 CNG buses in its fleet of nearly 200 buses, plus an additional 39 of its 61 HARTPlus vans and all eight HARTFlex vans. Some 25 additional CNG buses are arriving this fiscal year, Morrison says.

Hillsborough County public schools are running 50 propane buses and another 40 are on order. “We just didn’t have an interest in it [CNG], simply because of the cost,” says Jim Beekman, General Manager of Transportation.

The propane buses cost only $4400 more than diesel.

Pinellas County’s school district began running 58 new propane-powered buses this school year. The buses save the district money on fuel and maintenance, in addition to being more environmentally friendly, a spokeswoman says.

As the Pasco district's personnel are trained on the new buses, Kledzik says they plan to let surrounding districts in on the education process, which will include information on propane buses as well. “We’re looking to open it up and make it more a multi-county effort,” he says.

Kledzik says the new CNG buses are a way to “diversify the composition” of the fleet. He expects the school district will continue to invest in propane – and diesel. Diesel still is preferred for long trips outside of the county, and even longer trips within the county, he says.

“I don’t believe we’d get away completely from diesel buses,” he says.

Tampa Bay Alternative Fuel Vehicle Expo is slated from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. April 20 at 11780 Tampa Gateway Blvd, Seffner.

More information on alternative fuels is available at the Alternative Fuels Data Center or the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Clean Cities Program at 1-800-CCITIES.

Local job fairs offer wide variety of career opportunities

Job seekers can connect to area employers at job fairs in the coming weeks, including two fairs at Hillsborough Community College April 18 and 19.

“Usually if a company is here, they have positions available,” says Lorraine Canalejo, Career Resource Center Manager at HCC’s Dale Mabry Campus. “I have a gym. It fills up.”

The fair at HCC’s Dale Mabry Campus is from 9:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. April 18 in the Dale Mabry Gym. A variety of companies are expected for computer-related and law enforcement careers and jobs at animal clinics, radio/TV stations, restaurants and hotels, childcare centers, malls and Busch Gardens.

She advises job seekers to check out potential employers they’d like to talk with. Interested persons can call her at 813-253-7310 for more information on the companies. “Dress appropriately. Bring your resume,” she suggests.

“Typically we have it [the fair] in the spring term because it’s graduation time, but the job fair is open to all of our students as well as the public,” she says. “They don’t need to register.”

The HCC Ybor Campus event is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 19 in the Ybor Room.

On April 19, Talent Career Fairs is holding a Tampa Government, Financial, Sales and Education Career Fair to connect job seekers with leading local and Fortune 500 companies. The free event is planned from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Courtyard Marriott, 3805 West Cypress in Tampa.

Attendees can meet employers in financial services, management, IT, healthcare, government, education, accounting, sales, customer service, dispatch, retail, and other fields.

Here are some other job fairs scheduled in the area.

• Echo’s Spring Job Fair is planned from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 13 at Boys and Girls Club Brandon. The free event features part-time and full-time opportunities.

• Every Wednesday in April there will be a job fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Registered Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants at Kindred Hospital St Petersburg, 3030 6th Street S. Come ready for an interview on the spot.

• Sales, business development and marketing are the focus of the Tampa Job Fair April 24 by United Career Fairs. The free event is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport.

• A Job News Tampa Job Fair, by JobNewsUSA, is planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 26 at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Tampa.

Media marketing firm to fill 24 new jobs, host TechHire meetup

The Tampa digital marketing company MediaLab 3D Solutions, which specializes in interactive technology for the homebuilders’ market, is adding 24 new positions by the end of June.

Tara Harris, the company’s Human Resources Director, says the positions are needed because of large projects MediaLab has taken on. The company has been experiencing “conservative, measured growth” during the last three years, she says.

“For us to hire 24 people in one quarter is significant,” Harris says.

The company added 7,000 square feet to its offices in Telecom Park last year. It is looking for an architectural visualizer to work with animated graphics so they look real. Other positions include 3D modelers (junior and senior level), producers, project managers and floor plan artists.

The company employs about 100 in staff and has nearly a 50/50 mix of male and female in leadership roles. They are seeking to diversify the staff to include more minorities.

“We hire people that have a degree as well as those that are non-degreed,” Harris says. “We’re looking for a skillset.”

MediaLab has a “progressive, open-door culture” and is looking for people who want a career path and who enjoy camaraderie, she says.

“We don’t hire jerks,” Harris adds. “The majority of our people are artists.”

Most have some background in interior design, fine arts or computer animation.

MediaLab is hosting the third TechHire meeting to discuss local tech employment needs. The meeting, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. April 19, will be at 13101 Telecom Drive, Suite 250. It features Stacy Jenkins, the company’s Director of Development.

The event is organized by Tampa Innovation Alliance, a multi-jurisdictional district working to revitalize the community surrounding the University of South Florida. Seating is limited and interested persons are advised to reserve a place. 

“Stacy Jenkins is going to speak about some of the challenges of finding qualified employees for [computer] developing roles, bringing diversity to the group we have,” Harris says.

MediaLab’s goal is to find and retain a skilled, diverse workforce. “It’s challenging for us to find the skilled people that are kind of younger in their career,” Harris says. “The generation that we appeal to tend to be a little more transient.”

The TechHire program, launched by former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2015, is building a pipeline of talent in communities throughout the country. Tampa Bay was officially designated a TechHire community in December. It received a $3.8 million federal grant last summer to fund technical training and connect people with jobs.

Local TV network seeks submissions from filmmakers doing video in 11 categories

A cable television channel in downtown Tampa is giving voice to the region’s filmmakers. Through its annual Film Showcase and Filmmaker Spotlight, the Tampa Bay Arts and Education Network provides opportunities for filmmakers to share their work on a broader scale.

“TBAE showcase runs yearly,” says Jessica Sturges, TBAE Director of Business Development. “June we’re closed for judges to complete review to make sure they meet our broadcasting standards and can play it on our cable channel.”

Filmmakers have 11 categories to choose from: animations, lectures, shorts, features, documentary, children’s programs, public service announcement, explainer/tutorial video, music video, culture video and television. Entries should not have nudity or strong adult language.

“It has to go through prescreening,” she says, “to make sure it meets those broadcasting standards.”

Winners will receive Laurel of Excellence Awards and have their work broadcast on Charter Spectrum Channel 635 and 636 and Frontier Communications Channels 32 and 34.

TBAE is working on a Netflix-like app that will expand its reach globally this fall.

Founded in 1987, TBAE broadcasts commercial-free arts, culture and educational content to some 1.3 million viewers in Hillsborough County. Its original content includes Characters of Ybor City, Circus Coming to Town, The Tampa Natives Show, Florida in the Space Age, and Filmmaker Spotlight featuring selected films from the Gasparilla International Film Festival.

It works with area colleges -- and even Blake High School -- to provide feedback and internships. “We work very closely with professors and teachers in the community to make sure they are producing what TV stations like us are looking for,” she explains.

Originally founded in the University of Tampa’s library, the nonprofit organization now encourages filmmakers from throughout the Tampa Bay/Central Florida region, including Sarasota, Bradenton and Orlando.

The network launched the area’s first film festival, The Independents’ Film Festival, in 1993, but had to discontinue it because of the cost, she says. Instead, they partner with the Gasparilla festival.

Filmmaker Spotlight ... is the result of this unique collaboration,” she says. “The program offers the viewer a behind-the-scenes interview with the filmmaker, before the film and after.”

The showcase was started in 2014 at the request of filmmakers who wanted to have the opportunity to air their work. TBAE normally broadcasts the showcase in August and September, she says.

Submissions can be made online here.  For more information, call 813-254-2253.

Real-time Tampa communications company automates business operations

Software companies usually offer free trials that attract potential users of their software to their websites. But if that software is not really easy to use, the potential customers move on to other websites. Large numbers of them leave a site -- if they have questions, if they’re asked to download communications software, or if they have to wait for customer service.

Tampa’s ThinkRTC, short for Think Real-Time Communications, is working to change that. “We automate the process of talking to your customers. Our product builds right into your website,” says Masud Hossain, Co-Founder and CEO.

ThinkRTC was developed last November during Startup Weekend by Hossain, Yusuf Shajahan, Stephen Hong and Jonathan Li, who met through their families or the University of South Florida. The company is growing 85 percent each month.

“It [the software] keeps your users from leaving [your website] and lets your business communicate instantly,” he says.

Hossain, who earned a bachelor’s degree from USF with a double major in biochemistry and physics, had been working for a software company that was having a hard time retaining its signups. When a customer wasn’t willing to connect with the software company on Skype or Google Hangouts, he or she “was falling off the face of the Earth,” he says.

Email was worse. “If businesses don’t migrate from email to real-time communications, they’re going to lose business,” he asserts.

Real-time communications is simpler – and it also avoids a 24-hour lag time often associated with emails. “They don’t want to have to wait for 24 hours,” he says, “because in that 24 hours they’ve probably found someone that’s better than you.”

It’s “very rare” for a company to have its screen-share capabilities like those available from ThinkRTC’s $25-a-month-per-agent subscription service, he says.

“A lot [of users] have to download software to do that,” he explains. “It makes it harder for the customer.”

ThinkRTC’s service can be up and running after copying and pasting a line of code into a company’s website. It doesn’t matter what type of computer, browser or software is in use, he says.

The service lets the business and customer share the screen and computer, as well as engage in video chat. A ThinkRTC app allows communication on the go.

Initially ThinkRTC was seeking customers in the software niche, but they’ve found it can help people in other industries too. “We noticed that lawyers and doctors were using our product, as well as car dealerships,” he says. “It’s more useful if clients stay at home where all their documents are.”

ThinkRTC can automate workflow by allowing customers to submit documentation online through the system. “One lawyer just stays at home now. He’s just doing everything online. It’s automated his work process completely,” Hossain says.

The company working out of USF’s Student Innovation Incubator is seeking $1.2 million in capital primarily to market and sell the service. Though they visited Silicon Valley and were offered funding, the founders were all born and raised in Tampa and want to keep the technology here. “We want to make a name for ourselves here in Tampa,” he says.

Tampa Bay Area cities, counties offer summer jobs for teens

The city of Tampa is looking to hire 36 teens to spruce up East Tampa neighborhoods. The Grounds Maintenance Interns will mow, edge, trim and pick up trash. Safety training is included.

We have had many applications with a great response. All applicants must be enrolled in the Hillsborough County School System and reside within the boundaries of East Tampa: Hillsborough Avenue to the north, I-4 to the south, 56th Street to the east and I-275 to west,” says Jerry Williams, the city’s District Supervisor.

Applicants also must be 16- to 18-years-old and be able to pass background tests and drug screens.

Applications are being accepted online through April 7. The jobs through the Summer Youth Program run from June 5 through July 28, with pay at $8.10 an hour.

According to the city’s online solicitation, youths will be trained on how to use hand tools and motorized line trimmers, edgers, blowers and lawn mowers.

Other government agencies in the Tampa Bay also have summer-related jobs openings posted online, often related to recreation. They include Temple TerracePlant City, Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Bradenton and Lakeland

More opportunities for students exist beyond the traditional fast-food jobs.

“Malls, small- to medium-sized retail businesses, family-owned restaurants, Recreation Centers, Summer Camps, Busch Gardens and Adventure Island -- all offer very flexible, part-time opportunities into the summer and beyond,” says Jason Druding, Special Projects Coordinator with CareerSource Tampa Bay and Pinellas. 

As the summer approaches, students may want to attend a job fair, network and build up their resumes.

“Each [work] experience adds value to your resume, can enhance your skills, and also add new perspective as you grow within your career,” Druding explains. “With each job you take on, whether it be flipping burgers, mopping floors, or stocking shelves, make sure you always put your best foot forward, and excel in every aspect of your work-it will always carry forward.”

When a young person is short on experience, they need to “showcase their personality” and “can-do attitude,” he advises.

“Any references related to character, letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches, or other influential community members will be very beneficial,” Druding adds.

SunView Software of Tampa wins innovation award

A Tampa software company has won a coveted Gold Award for its IT platform enabling the use of artificial intelligence.

SunView Software, a leading provider of IT Service Management software, claimed the Innovation Of The Year Award at the annual IT Service Management Conference and Exhibition, Pink 17, in Las Vegas.

Its ChangeGear 7 Service Manager with Service Smart Technology beat out Silver Award winner CA Technologies’ CA Service Management – xFlow User Experience at the industry’s No. 1 event in February.

SunView’s flagship platform, ChangeGear is an enterprise-grade IT Service Management platform with a full suite of services including Help Desk, Change Management, Incident Management, Problem Management, Configuration Management and more.

The latest release, ChangeGear 7, is a first-to-market platform delivering artificial intelligence to the service desk.

The conference, organized by global training, consulting and conference service provider Pink Elephant, was the 21st annual international event. Pink Elephant also gave top Project Of The Year and Practitioner Of The Year awards.

Sunview Software helps companies deliver, manage and monitor IT services. It has invested $1 million into expanding its headquarters – and added more than 45 employees since early 2016.

Growth is ongoing.

SunView Software is part of a growing Tampa Bay tech community that is gaining traction. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increasing number of new venture-funded technology startups form in and around the Bay area, making Tampa a competitive hub for software development jobs in the marketplace,” says Seng Sun, SunView’s CEO. “Being a Tampa-based company ourselves, we recognize the tremendous potential in the community we have here. That’s why we’ve teamed up with the USF Computer Science Department and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation to help us to discover, recruit and retain local talent. Last month’s award win is indicative our initiative’s success.”

Now the privately-held company is gearing up for HDI 2017 Conference & Expo on May 9-12 in Washington D.C. At the showcase, it will be giving people a look at ChangeGear’s new mobile experience, plus enhancements to its AI technology and self-service capabilities, including a chatbot virtual support agent.

St. Petersburg’s Innovation District launches search for director

South of downtown St. Petersburg in the city’s Bayboro Harbor District, lies a powerhouse collection of marine science and oceanographic organizations.

The University of South Florida College of Marine Science, SRI St. Petersburg, the Florida Institute of Oceanography and U.S. Geological Survey and are among the half dozen or more marine-related organizations collectively known as the Ocean Team.

According to the City of St. Petersburg, the Ocean Team collectively employs more than 1,600 people, most in highly specialized jobs.

Just a block away, is another growing consortium of world-class educational, research and healthcare organizations.  There’s the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, known internationally for its journalism education, and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, which just opened the new Kate Tiedemann College of Business.

In addition, there is a thriving healthcare corridor that includes Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.  

The internationally renowned Dali Museum is also located here.

To capitalize on the area’s potential, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin have branded it as the city’s new Innovation District. A search is now underway to hire a director to help plan, manage and coordinate activities to take the district to the next level.

“The aspiration of the St. Petersburg Innovation District is to catalyze the major institutional anchors in one geographic space,” says Randall H. Russell, President and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, one of several anchor organizations working with the city to recruit a new director for the district.

“The unusual co-location of federal and local marine research, health care organizations, including the opening of the new Johns Hopkins All Children’s Research Center, combine to result in a unique combination of talent and opportunity,” says Russell.

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is currently constructing a seven-story, 225,000-square-foot research and education center that will house laboratories and offices in four key areas: pediatric heart disease, children’s cancer and blood disorders, brain protection sciences and maternal, fetal and neonatal institute. There are also expanded facilities for the hospital’s nationally accredited pediatric bio-repository to support clinical research.

In a 2015 report outlining the vision for the district, GAI Community Solutions Group writes: “Many Sunbelt cities are interested in developing this type of integrated place, but very few have the necessary cornerstone elements in place as St. Petersburg does.  Even fewer cities have those elements situation in a location with compelling natural environmental resources and economic characteristics to attract talent and jobs.”

The city envisions the Innovation District as a driver of economic development, job creation and collaboration that will attract new investment and revitalization to the area. Click here for an overview of the area from the city’s perspective

The salary range for the new Innovation District Director is $70,000 to $90,000. Job candidates must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with major course work in urban planning, business administration or a related field, as well as five years of increasing responsible experience in a project management environment. Economic development, business development, marketing or public relations experience is preferred.

According to a news release, the new director “will work with the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County leadership, as well as Innovation District organizations to develop the infrastructure for the district and bring the concept to the next level.”

Jobs Roundup: Who is hiring? Home Depot, Vistra Communications, CWU Inc., City of Clearwater

The Atlanta-based Home Depot is in a spring hiring spree, with plans to hire some 1,350 in the greater Tampa area during March, or by early April. Its goal is to hire more than 80,000 associates in all of its stores and distribution centers for the season.

“Some of those have already been hired,” says Matt Harrigan, a Home Depot spokesman. “Spring is always our busiest time of year. ... It’s kind of like Christmas in our stores. Its really our holiday season.”

Home Depot is hiring for a “mix” of positions, depending on the individual store’s needs, he says. It will fill positions for cashiers, lot associates, garden and freight personnel. Full, part-time and temporary positions may be available.

About half of the typical, 90-day-seasonal workers stay on after the rush, and can apply their hours toward company benefits, Harrigan says.

Those benefits include profit sharing, tuition assistance, discounted stock purchases, and 401Ks. Employees also have access to the company's associate discount site, where they can purchase cell phones, electronics, gym memberships and other items.

Salaries vary by store location and employee qualifications, Harrigan says.

Home Depot announced its streamlined online application process earlier this month. It optimized the process for mobile use, reducing estimated application time from 90 to 15 minutes, he explains.

It offers job-related training on product lines, computers and other skills associated with their assignment.

“Primarily we look for just someone who is passionate about customer service,” Harrigan adds. “Our focus is always to find associates that will fit our orange-blooded culture.”

Employees typically wear an orange apron saying “I put customers first.” The company’s core values include taking care of customers and each other, the entrepreneurial spirit, giving back to the community, veterans' housing and other home improvement projects, he says.

With 30 stores in the greater Tampa area, it’s one of Home Depot’s larger markets, he says.

The company’s website advertises jobs are “in bloom” and people can “put down roots where they really can grow.” It indicates 16- and 17-year-olds in Florida are welcome to apply for store support/lot associate, customer service/sales associate (garden) and cashier jobs.

Home Depot, which has a total of 2,278 retail stores, racked up $94.6 billion in sales during the 2016 fiscal year, earning $8 billion.

Here are some other job opportunities in Tampa Bay.

• Vistra Communications has moved its headquarters to Lutz and is planning to hire 50 new employees by 2022, doubling its size and pumping $1.3 million into the economy. Vistra was founded in 2007 and serves corporate, government and nonprofit clients. It is a nationally recognized, full-service communications and professional solutions agency. Submit your resume or learn more about current opportunities here.

• CWU Inc. recently announced plans to move from Clearwater to Tampa and add 20 new jobs by 2018. The company, founded in 2004, also is moving 30 existing positions to Tampa. It provides direct operational and training support services to more than 90 federal agencies. Learn more.

• The city of Clearwater is advertising ongoing employment opportunities on its website for a library volunteer coordinator, library intern, seasonal marine operator, social events staff, beach lifeguards, wastewater plant operators, and school crossing guards. Applicants should print out an application here, fill it out and submit it to Municipal Services Building at 100 South Myrtle Avenue, Clearwater, FL, or fax it to (727) 562-4877. No online applications are being accepted for these positions.

Pinellas artists sought for new grant program

Creative Pinellas is looking for up-and-coming artists for a new grant program that encourages them to create new work. Its Emerging Artists Grant program will award $2,000 each to 10 working in the creative arts, who will be mentored by someone in their field.

“I’ve never seen a mentoring program, outside of a school program, for emerging artists,” says Barbara St. Clair, Executive Director of Creative Pinellas. “We heard that people needed help taking their work and professional careers to the next level.”

The grant was developed specifically to recognize -- and support -- artists early in their careers, as they are building their followings. It is open to older adults early in an arts career.

The program provides financial and mentoring support and the opportunity to showcase their work. A panel of professional and academic artists will do the judging.

“We’re open to artists in pretty much every discipline,” she adds.

Creative Pinellas is looking for artists in: literature, choreography, interdisciplinary, media arts, music composition, theatre/musical theatre, and visual arts. They must be at least 18 and a legal resident of Pinellas County for at least one year; they also must agree to maintain legal residency during the grant period ending in October.

Artists must have a track record of success, a strong portfolio, a plan for the future, and a commitment to participate in the exhibition planned Oct. 26. Grant participants are expected to work with mentors and make regular reports on the progress of their work between July 1st and October 26.

Two workshops are scheduled for potential applicants. The first one is scheduled from 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, at Morean Arts Center for Clay, 420 22nd Street South, St. Petersburg. The second one is planned from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, March 30. The location has not been announced.

Applications are being accepted online through 5 p.m. April 12. Artists are advised to begin uploading before or by 4:30 p.m. to ensure their work is successfully received by the deadline. More information is available at Creative Pinellas. Awards will be announced in June.

Creative Pinellas also has been working with artists “more at the pinnacle” of their careers, St. Clair says.

The county’s local art agency, Creative Pinellas is supported by the Pinellas County Commission, Visit St Petersburg/Clearwater, the State of Florida, and by sales of the State of the Arts specialty license plate in Pinellas County.

Mobile app helps property owners find repair services

Imagine your toilet is overflowing and you call a repair service only to learn no one can come out for a couple of days. Or temperatures are 90+ degrees and your air conditioner quits running. You have to pay extra if you want someone the same day, if anyone is available at all.

A Tampa-based fix-it company, Homee on Demand, was created to help out in times like these. It maps subcontractors in your area who can arrive quickly, usually within 30 minutes around the clock.

“Pricing is usually 30 percent better than you’ll get going direct to the individual company,” says Doug Schaedler, Co-founder and CEO.  “You can select who you would like to come.”

Homee does repairs and remodeling on homes, condominiums, apartments and commercial establishments.

Homee Founders Schaedler and business colleague Dave Theus, Chief Technology Officer, have discovered people like to use the service even for non-emergency situations. About 60 percent are looking for a handyman primarily for “non-urgent work,” Schaedler says.

Homee’s app lets property owners and managers connect with repair workers on demand through their Smartphones or tablets. “It’s meant to be a mobile platform,” Schaedler says. “It automatically identifies your location.”

Users download the app at the Apple or Google Play stores, connecting with 350 repair services in the Tampa Bay region. They can find plumbers, electricians, handymen, and heating/venting/air conditioning repair service providers.

Nearly 20,000 people already have installed the app and can access more than 1,000 total subcontractors in the Homee network.

Homee serves the Tampa Bay region, in the north up to Inverness, in the south to Sarasota, in the east to Lakeland and the west to the Gulf of Mexico. It also services Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville. In January, it began serving Cincinnati as well.

“Our plan is begin the national rollout here in the next few months, and do an additional 12 to 15 cities by the end of this year,” Schaedler says.

The company has raised $1.35 million in capital.

Theus and Schaedler got the idea for the app after experiencing problems getting home repairs themselves. Homee launched the app last summer and, as the licensed general contractor, screens and signs up subcontractors.

Homee, which offers work to subcontractors during idle time, is able to set discount pricing, Schaedler says.

“Every month we’ve been doubling both the number of transactions and the number of users,” he says.

Homee on Demand currently is hiring for a variety of positions. “We’re doing a lot of hiring especially here in Tampa which is our headquarters,” Schaedler adds.

He expects to double the staff of 15, adding tech savvy individuals for positions like VP of marketing and marketing managers. Other jobs are in software development or involve staff interaction with subcontractors.

“We just brought on an additional three people,” he says.

Wages are negotiated but, in general, will be “above local Tampa wages,” he says.

“We think it [Homee] is a unique thing for Tampa. We’re really pleased with the progress so far,” he says.

USFSP adding master's program in conservation biology

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg is launching a master’s degree program in Conservation Biology in the fall 2017, in an attempt to fill a void in the state university system for the thesis-based biology degree.

“We looked at our faculty research base and realized this was ... a degree that was really missing from this area,” says Dr. Melanie Riedinger-Whitmore, who prepared the proposal for the program.

The degree program is being developed in connection with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The university also reached out to representatives of city and state government, as well as environmental consulting firms.

“It is important ... especially for coastal populations to address those issues that are affected by climate change and the environment,” says Dr. Martin Tadlock, USFSP’s Regional Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs.

He adds that society likely will be looking for leadership on conservation issues such as reducing waste, improving living conditions, and having a positive or at least neutral impact on the environment.

“The goal really is to meet the demand in the region and in the state for individuals in the field to assume leadership roles,” he says.

The Master of Science degree would prepare students to be conservation biologists, conservation specialists, wildlife biologists as well as to fill other positions requiring a strong biology background to deal with wildlife.

“Students who have a degree in this program hopefully will be broadly trained,” Riedinger-Whitmore says. “They’re going to be learning the latest techniques.”

The average mean wage in 2015 for conservation scientists in Florida was $70,000-$90,220, among the highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dr. Riedinger-Whitmore, who will teach a core course in conservation biology theory, says the university already has had students express an interest in the program. “We had a lot of students participate in undergraduate research,” she explains. “A lot are excited they can continue on progress they’ve started as undergraduates.”

Initially the graduate program is expected to have 15, a figure determined by funding. “We wanted to make sure we had a small cohort we all could work with,” she says.

More information will be available at the Graduate Program’s Open House from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. April 15 at USFSP’s downtown St. Petersburg campus. Interested persons can apply to the program here.

The popular biology undergraduate program has more than 750 students. Since the university opened the undergraduate program in the College of Arts and Science in 2012, it has become the largest major in that department.

Students are expected to have access to newly renovated labs as well as being involved in the community and workplace, Tadlock says.

Spending time in nature is part of the program. “Being out in nature is going to be a big part of this degree. I think our focus initially is going to be the aquatic and terrestrial and coastal communities of west Central Florida,” Riedinger-Whitmore says.

USFSP will be looking to provide internship opportunities at local agencies that deal with conservation, as well as state, regional and private consulting firms.

It also will be soliciting instructors from the professional community. “We like doing this. It really introduces students to potential employers,” she says. “They get to interact with someone that is in the workforce.”

CO.STARTERS program targets creatives, health professionals, techies

TEC Garage will be offering a nine-week program to help aspiring entrepreneurs in the creative arts, healthcare and technology industries beginning March 28. Called CO.STARTERS, the program will help prospective entrepreneurs test their ideas and potentially launch their businesses.

“This program is being sponsored in part by Creative Pinellas. We are asking the other tech companies to pay their portion of the fees,” says Tonya Elmore, CEO of Tampa Bay Innovation Center.

TEC Garage was developed by the TBIC to support entrepreneurs. It typically works with tech businesses, not artists. But they started receiving inquiries from local artists interested in starting businesses, so the TEC Garage pilot tested the program with creative types last year. 

“We wanted to see if they played well in the sandbox together and they did,” she says.

CO.STARTERS will be held on Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m. at TEC Garage, 244 2nd Ave. North, St. Petersburg. During the series, J.J. Roberts, director of TEC Garage, and other business professionals from the Tampa Bay area will be featured as guest speakers.

More information is available on the classes here.

The CO.STARTERS program normally costs $275. The fee includes two months of co-working space at the TEC Garage upon graduation, which is usually priced at $150. More information is available at 727-547-7340.

Scholarships are available through Creative Pinellas, an organization dedicated to fostering the Pinellas County arts community. They are offered to artists, those who are part of artists’ organizations, and entrepreneurs in creative industries, says Barbara St. Clair, Executive Director of Creative Pinellas.

“If you’re a professional artist, you are a business,” she explains. “All of those things that a business knows ...  are really relevant to you.”

Attendees may have more in common than the obvious tie-ins between art and technology in careers such as graphic arts. The separation has become “very porous,” St. Clair says.

There are more subtle connections between art in healing and though collaborations between the technological and the creative. “There are some exciting ways in which the two cross over and meet with each other,” St. Clair says.

The pilot program apparently had a big impact. “We sold out the first one in like 48 hours, which is why we are doing it again. People are very excited.”

Some said the course changed their lives. “It really did seem to have a significant impact on the individuals who participated,” she adds.

The Company Lab, a Chattanooga, TN organization, developed CO.STARTERS, which is available to startups nationwide.

Local Boys and Girls Clubs hiring childcare workers

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay are hiring at locations in Hillsborough and Pasco counties. The organization is looking for helpers for its Summer Day Camp as well as its year-round after-school programs.
“We’ve starting the process, coordinating the number of hires we’ll actually need [for the summer],” says Sandra Kay-Weaver, VP of Talent. “Ideally we’d like to have everyone on board by the end of May, and in our training.”
The organization usually brings on 50-70 staffers to oversee camp programs; experience in childcare is not mandatory. “It’s very helpful if they have experience working with children in groups,” she says.
Applicants must be at least 18 years of age. The camp positions’ pay averages $8.75 to $15 an hour depending on job experience, Kay-Weaver says. Some positions are fulltime and some are part-time, depending on the club’s need. “Hopefully they [the applicants] are engaging, fun,” she says.
Part-time positions are available year-round for the after-school program. “We are always recruiting for a pipeline of part-time positions,” Kay-Weaver says.
Cassandra Thomas, Director of Marketing and Communications, says there usually are more part-time positions than full. “One of the biggest areas we seem to have trouble filling is bus drivers,” she adds.
Because staff interacts with children, screening is rigorous. “We do very meticulous drug screening, background checks,” says Thomas, “and it does include people working on the administrative side as well. We tend to go into the clubs too.”
At Bethune Park in Wimauma, Club Director Ronneka Peacock says the need for after-school program specialists is immediate. “My club absolutely needs people right now,” she says.
She prefers people with some kind of childcare experience, even if it’s babysitting. “I’m looking for staff and are able to have fun and still have the kids respect them and listen to them,” she says.
Those who are interested in applying for jobs at Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay can begin the process online. Information is available on internships and volunteer opportunities as well. Candidates also can check the club locations and pick up an application on-site.
The organization has a full-time staff of about 40 to 50, who work at the administrative offices or the clubs. These positions do open up periodically. “It’s always a great idea if they have Boys and Girls Clubs in their background,” Kay-Weaver says. “We want people who are dedicated to our mission.”
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