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NASA awards seed grant to USF for wastewater research

NASA has awarded a one-year seed grant to the University of South Florida to research a sewage waste recycling system and energy/nutrient extraction system for potential use in space and on Mars explorations.

“Being able to grow food in places like Mars is really critical,” says Daniel Yeh, an associate professor in the College of Engineering, whose focus is environmental engineering. “NASA has made it a priority that they are going to have to develop technology to grow food on Mars.”

Yeh points out NASA already has proven technologies it is using at the International Space Station to recycle urine and sweat for drinking water.

“NASA already has within its portfolio many technologies for water treatment, including that for water recycling aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which has been running successfully for almost a decade,” he explains. “The NEWgenerator is being evaluated as a potential technology due to new desires and commitments by NASA and private companies for exploring deep space, including putting humans on Mars within the next 15-20 years.”

Starting this month, USF is working with the Kennedy Space Center to see if its NEWgenerator, which it’s been working on for the last decade, can be adapted for space. The amount of the grant wasn’t available.

“New technologies will be needed for new methods to grow food and the complete recycling of all wastes. This is why NASA is taking a look at our technology as a potential candidate,” he says. “This is a rigorous multi-year process with a lot of evaluations and tests along the way, to ensure that, whatever technologies are chosen, they will be high-performing, reliable and safe.”

While sewage treatment plants typically are large, and take up a lot of space, the new prototype must be compact. “Think of it as a very efficient sewage treatment plant in a small box,” he says.

The system uses a filtration membrane and microorganisms to break down the waste. The Earth’s elements are building blocks that are stored, used, pulled apart, and used again, similar to Lego parts stored in bins, he explains.

“Our first priority is to get rid of them [germs] so it will be completely sanitary,” he continues. “That’s something we can’t compromise on.”

They’ve done the groundwork in India and South Africa, where they’ve been treating toilet waste and testing it. “We’re getting really good,” he says.

For space use, the USF research will endeavor to make the system smaller, so it will serve four to six people.

“We need to make it appropriate for zero gravity applications,” he says.

An environmental engineering student starting his master’s studies, Talon Bullard, will be developing the prototype of a NEWgenerator for space as his thesis.

After the initial year, they hopefully can get another grant to further the research, he says. Eventually, it will need to be tested in space.

“You can only test it so far on Earth,” he says, explaining zero gravity “is difficult to mimic.”

A prototype also needs to be maintained in space. “You need to design the system so that undesirable failure will not happen,” he says.

That might involve changing parts during regular maintenance, before they actually break. “What’s exciting for us is learning about how they [NASA] handle risk and how they deal with failure, so we can actually engineer our system so that it’s incredibly reliable,” he adds.

Boys and Girls Club ramping up job path program

Hassan Lewis is an articulate, 21-year-old working as senior program specialist at Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay. A senior studying social sciences at the University of South Florida, Lewis knows what it’s like to feel the need for extra support in middle school. And he likes to give back.

“I think back to when I was in middle school,” he says. “It feels like the pressure of high school is coming.”

So Lewis, who oversees a group of fifth graders, offers coaching and mentoring to them, helping the boys and girls to have a sense of belonging. It’s all part of what the Boys and Girls Clubs have been doing to reach youths early and help them plan their career paths.

The Boys and Girls Clubs is gearing up the effort with the official launch of a program called Think Big for Kids. Led by a volunteer, Tony DiBenedetto, tech entrepreneur and former CEO of Tribridge, the program targets underprivileged students 12 to 18.

It started in 2016 after DiBenedetto recognized Boys and Girls Club students had a general lack of awareness about potential careers. He and a team created a plan including on-the-job training, trade school certification, and a two- or four-year degree, depending on the career track. DiBenedetto also recruited some businesses to help.

Chris Letsos, President and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, says they recognized working with high schoolers was a bit late. “We really needed to focus on career exploration activities in middle school,” he explains.

The goal is to “focus on ending generational poverty and addressing the opportunity gap and achievement gap that our kids face,” he says.

They’ve been working with some 400 to 500 youths, initially in Town ‘n’ Country and East Tampa. They are now in eight middle schools including Webb and Pierce, Town ‘n’ Country; Marshall and Tomlin, Plant City; Shields Middle, Ruskin; Greco, Temple Terrace; and Chasco, Port Richey.

“Our goal is to serve 2,000 kids through 2022 through Think Big for Kids,” he says.

Partnering on the Think Big for Kids initiative are Tribridge, Bank of America, Haneke Design, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, JDP Electric, Painters on Demand, ReliaQuest and Tampa General Hospital.

Letsos says they are looking for additional partners, whether they are individuals or businesses, who want to participate in the project. Interested parties should contact DiBenedetto.

“We can’t do this on our own,” he says. “This is a community problem that only the community can help us address.”

Ultimately, it’s more than just career placement, Letsos points out.

According to The Sentencing Project, a Washington-D.C.-based organization advocating for a fair and effective justice system, the United States leads the world in the number of people incarcerated, with 2.2 million in prisons and jails. In the last 40 years, there’s been a 500 percent increase -- at least in part because of harsher sentencing penalties. It also says the number incarcerated for drug offenses has skyrocketed.

“We have to do better by our kids,” Letsos says.

Learn how to write a resume, attend job fairs

When you’re jobseeking, a resume is required. But not everyone has an effective one, if they have one at all.

Ron Smalls is trying to do something about that. The owner of Paving the Way Consultancy in Lutz, he provides free resume-writing training at places like the public libraries.

“We’ve had a good number of people coming,” he says. “Our goal is to get people into jobs, and also to help them maintain jobs.”

The classes rotate among Tampa area libraries and other venues. “We keep it on the move,” he says. “It’s accessible to everyone.”

He’s holding the next workshop from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, at 5508 Co-Working & Collaborative Exchange, 5508 N. 50th St., Suite 14, Tampa.

“The workshop will cover pivotal information that job seekers should be aware for their resumes,” Smalls says. “We will be covering items such as, what you should and should not include on your resume, understanding how properly formatting your resume is essential for the person reviewing it, and how to make your resume stand out among your peers.” 

Because it’s interactive, attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions.

Want a few quick tips ahead of time? “Never put your address on your resume,” Smalls says. When you do that, you risk having the employer decide for you if your commute would be too long.

He also suggests only putting “relevant” information on your resume. 

Smalls knows what it’s like to be trying to find a job without knowing the ins and outs. So he decided to help. He is partnering with the non-profit Xtreme Rise of Tampa.

As an organizational development consultant, Smalls works with businesses throughout the hiring and expansion process.

Check out some upcoming job fairs in Tampa.

• A free, construction industry job fair is slated from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the EpiCenter at St. Petersburg College, 13805 58th St. N., Clearwater. The job fair, hosted by CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, will include 25 employers with more than 100 open positions. There are jobs for carpenters and electricians, plus heating, ventilating and air conditioning technicians and more. To avoid registration lines, jobseekers are advised to pre-register at CareerSource Pinellas, where more information is available. Uber is providing a 20 percent discount on rides to and from the event with the code CAREERSOURCEFL.

• CareerIntro has a Tampa Career Fair planned from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, June 14, at Crowne Plaza, 5303 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. The event, which is free to jobseekers, brings together job candidates of varying experience levels and representatives of local, regional, and Fortune 500 Companies who have job openings. Register here.

• Coast-to-Coast Career Fairs is having a Tampa Career Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, June 18, at Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore Airport, 700 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa. Coast-to-Coast works with employers in a wide variety of fields including accounting, advertising, banking, construction, education, electronics, green technology, health, retail, telecommunications and travel. Jobseekers can register for free here.

• If you’d like to work on a cruise ship, there’s a job fair for that. Norwegian Cruise Line has a Cruise Ship Job Fair scheduled at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, at AC Hotel Tampa Airport, 4020 W. Boy Scout Blvd., Tampa. Registration begins at 9 a.m. During the session, job contenders will learn about shipboard employment. Interviews will follow. Jobseekers can apply online for a variety of positions including assistant cook, assistant waiter, butcher, restaurant steward and stateroom steward. Learn more.

• JobNewsUSA is holding a job fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, at George M. Steinbrenner Field, 1 Steinbrenner Dr., Tampa. The event is free for jobseekers, who will be able to meet face-to-face with recruiters and hiring managers. Job candidates are advised to dress for an interview and bring 10 to 20 copies of an updated resume. Learn more.

• Unable to get to a job fair? Attend the Tampa Virtual Job Fair from the comfort of your own home. More than 20 companies are slated to participate in the job fair from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28, online. The free event is being held by Career Showcase, a job fair firm specializing in sales, business development, financial services, customer service/call center and marketing recruiting. Check it out here.

Hiring Heroes: New Tampa Bay Area job fair focuses on veterans

Veterans dress smart, have good skills and are reliable. Though people like to honor them, employers are not always willing to hire them. That can be a real problem, but it’s one Stephanie Sims is looking to solve.

“Veterans show up, dressed up, ready to go,” Sims says. “Sometimes a job offer is not made. The employer might think they’re too good.”

Other times veterans have problems translating military skills into civilian life. “To find and to convey transferrable skills is not always easy,” she says.

So Sims, who has witnessed the problems at national job fairs, is holding her first Tampa area job fair catering to miliary veterans: the Tampa Bay Hiring Heroes Career Fair. Their motto is: “The Best Way to Honor a Veteran is to Hire one.” The goal is to help vets meet face-to-face with employers, so hurdles can be overcome. 

“I don’t think there’s any substitute for a job candidate getting face-to-face with a prospective employer,” asserts Sims, CEO and Marketing Director of Florida JobLink, a career fair provider since 1996.

Hiring Heroes is a new initiative of the Palma Ceia-based corporation in cities with a military presence. Three or four fairs are anticipated this year in Tampa and Jacksonville, with the event expanding nationwide next year.

She explains that a resume is easily trashed when an employer believes a job candidate is expecting a higher wage than that being offered. But when the veteran and employer meet, they can discuss circumstances that make the job doable.

“Employers just love the enthusiasm and the work ethic that veterans and their spouses have,” she says.

Sims also is bringing Hiring Heroes job fairs to neighborhoods where veterans live, to make it more convenient for those employed or responsible for childcare. This event is in Wesley Chapel, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, at 2740 Cypress Ridge Blvd.

Some 30 employers are anticipated, along with some 600 to 800 job seekers. While the free event seeks to place veterans and those transitioning to civilian life, it is open to all. Job positions include healthcare, sales, marketing, insurance, food service, technical, production, clerical, customer service, education and legal. Register online.

Learn about other upcoming job fairs in the Tampa Bay region.

• A free job fair is planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, for people interested in working for Hertz. Managers will be conducting interviews for -- and hiring -- counter sales representatives at the free event at Hertz -- Rental Car Center, 5405 Airport Service Road., Tampa. A minimum of one year of experience in high volume sales or customer service in a service-oriented environment is required, along with a high school diploma or its equivalent. Learn more.

• A Young Talent Tampa Bay Career and Resource Fair is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at the Tampa Career Center, 9215 N. Florida Ave. The free event by CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay caters to those 18 to 24. Check out the details.

• The JobNewsUSA.com St. Petersburg/Clearwater Job Fair is slated from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, at The Matheos Hall / Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, 409 S. Old Coachman Road, Clearwater. Parking and admission are free. Job seekers who attend can build their professional network, meet one-on-one with recruiters and hiring managers, learn about unadvertised, upcoming job openings, be interviewed and hired. Pre-register.

National Career Fairs is holding a free recruiting/hiring event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport, 4500 W. Cypress St., Tampa. Registrants receive updates and alerts, plus the opportunity to upload a resume and search for jobs online beforehand. Candidates are advised to bring resumes to the fair and dress for success.

Career Cafe: Workshop helps girls land the jobs of their dreams

A Pinellas County high school student has created a career program that teaches the job-hunting skills girls need to land their dream jobs. Called The Career Cafe, it's intended to help girls compete more favorably in the marketplace.

Anne Bauer, a 17-year-old senior at East Lake High School in north Pinellas County, developed the program after recognizing two years ago that women face wage discrimination in the workplace. She’d attended a Women’s Conference of Florida, where she learned of the problem.

“My eyes were opened to the gender wage gap between male and females in the workforce,” she says. “I realized I was going to be entering the workforce soon. I did not want that to be prevalent at all.”  

So Bauer, a Girl Scout since kindergarten, created The Career Cafe, where girls can practice interviewing and hone resume-writing skills before they actually have an interview. The first Career Cafe was held in October; a second cafe is scheduled in May.

“The goal of The Career Cafe is to prepare the girls when they are looking for a job,” explains Clara Moll, VP of Membership Innovation for Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. “It [the interview] is very daunting. Some of them have never attempted to look for a job for themselves.”

A cafe, open to girls in high school and above, up to 23 years of age, is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at The Kaizen Collaborative, 5215 W. Laurel St., Ste. 110, Tampa. Check-in begins at 8:30 a.m.

Girl Scout membership is not required.

The program teaches job-hunting skills like networking, personal branding, and interview dos and don’ts. It features opening remarks by Jamie Klingman, a Lightning Community Hero of the Year in 2014, and speakers Debbie Lundberg of Presenting Powerfully, along with Robin Kraemer and Ronda Clement of My Matrixx.

Coaches and volunteers include Camie Gibertini, Valley National Bank; Holly Donaldson, Holly Donaldson Financial Planning; Stephanie Gaines, Citi; Juliann Nichols, Julo Strategy; Adeola Shabiyi, Citigroup; and Jennifer McVan, Florida Hospital.

Bauer’s efforts have been recognized by the 2018 Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation’s Community Heroes of Tomorrow program, which awarded her a $25,000 college scholarship. She plans to attend the University of South Florida in Tampa next fall and double major in biomedical engineering and finance.

Another $25,000 was awarded to the Girl Scouts to continue the program.

“We hope to keep it going,” says Nicole Gonzalez, Public Relations and Media Manager for Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. “It’s definitely a great opportunity for high school.”

While the Scouts do offer other career-related programs like Camp CEO, The Career Cafe is open to the general public and gives girls a good career overview. “This is really more about envisioning their lives and where they see themselves,” Gonzalez says. “You’re going to leave here with the tools that you need.”

The Girl Scouts are looking for volunteers for the event, especially to help with resume writing and mock interviews. “It’s a good way to bridge the gap between women who are older that have more experience and the younger girls that are just starting their professional life,” Moll says.

To register or volunteer, visit the Girl Scouts website and search for The Career Cafe. For more information, email careercafe@gswcf.org.

Bauer will be receiving the Girl Scouts’ highest accolade, the Gold Award pin, for her efforts Saturday, June 9.

Women in Florida earn an average 87.5 cents for every $1 a man earns, according to The Status of Women in Florida by County: Employment and Earnings, a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in partnership with Florida Philanthropic Network and Florida Women’s Funding Alliance.

That’s up from 79.9 cents in 2004.

The report released April 9 shows the Sunshine State receives a D+, ranking 36th in its Employment and Earnings Index based on the number of women in the workplace, women’s median annual earnings, the gender wage gap and women in professional or managerial positions. The grade dropped from C- in 2004.

Learn about upcoming job fairs in the Tampa Bay area.

Hillsborough Community College is holding a free job fair Tuesday, April 17, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the gym on the Dale Mabry Campus, 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa.

• ECHO, the Emergency Care Help Organization, has scheduled its Spring Job Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at Brandon Boys and Girls Club, 213 N. Knights Ave., Brandon. The event is free. Learn more.

• Career Showcase is holding a Tampa Job Fair from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at Tampa Marriott Westshore, 1001 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa. The event specializes in careers in sales, particularly pharmaceutical, medical, IT, inside and outside, as well as business development, financial services, customer service/call center and marketing recruiting. It is free and open to recent college graduates through executive candidates. Pre-registration is required.

JobNewsUSA.com’s Tampa Job Fair is planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, at George M. Steinbrenner Field, 1 Steinbrenner Dr. The free event caters to all jobseekers. Recruiters will be available.

• A free job fair for Registered nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants is slated from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 28, at Kindred Hospital Bay Area St. Petersburg, 3030 6th St. S., St. Petersburg.
Learn more.

• Nations Joblink is targeting jobseekers from the Bradenton, Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch areas with its Tampa Bay Career Fair from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, May 10, at Homewood Suites Conference Center -- Sarasota Lakewood Ranch, 305 N. Cattlemen Dr., Sarasota. The event is for career seekers from a wide variety of industries. It’s free -- and hiring will be done on the spot. Register online.


Millennial Mixer: Diverse networking group hits one-year mark

He’s an internist. She’s a general dentist. Together, they run the Healthy Bodies Medical and Dental Center in Brandon. The husband-and-wife team, Martha and Watson Ducatel, got their start with help from Millennial Mixer, a regular East Tampa event that brings together millennials and those who want to connect with them.

“It’s really just to connect millennials and to connect other people with millennials,” explains Fort Myers native Ivy Box, Millennial Mixer's founder and curator. “We just want to provide a comfortable atmosphere.”

Millennial Mixer attracts a diverse crowd to its gatherings at 5508 Co-working and Collaboration Exchange, a place where small minority-owned businesses can operate affordably. While there, attendees might munch on finger foods, order drinks at the cash bar, or buy food from food trucks.

The space is donated. Sometimes wine is donated to be sold at the event. So people show up and mingle. Businesses show up and advertise for free.

“It’s a mixed crowd. A majority of businesses are minority owned,” says Box, whose parents migrated to Florida from Haiti for a safer environment and more financial opportunity. “They’re diverse in their background and they’re diverse in their professions.”

The idea developed to make more people aware of the exchange run by Tampa-Hillsborough Action Plan Inc. and Coastal Bay Properties. “It just made sense. Provide something for millennials to do. Get them over to 5508 to see what’s going on,” says Box, a millennial herself.

So Millennial Mixer began as an every other month event – and celebrated its first year in existence with a gathering Jan. 24 at 5508 N. 50th St. In the future, Box may hold the mixers on a quarterly basis and involve more people, perhaps by collaborating with other groups on themed events.

Many who come aren’t familiar with the facility made of refurbished old storage units converted into offices and businesses. Its conference center is the event space, where vendors can set up tables and people can sit at high top tables in the middle and socialize while music plays in the background.

Through word of mouth and social media promotion, the event has grown from 30 people and three vendors to more than 100 with 13 to 14 vendors. “That’s all that can fit in that room. We’ve had to run away vendors,” she says. “We’re almost at the point where we probably need to get a bigger space. For now, we’ll stay at the space that’s free.”

What sets Millennial Mixer apart is its demographic and its laid back approach. After all, there are no memberships, meeting agendas or admission fees. “Here people can ... loosen up a little bit. They can chill at the bar,” she says.

In keeping with the millennial style, the mixers last about two hours. “We like it fast and quick,” Box says.

Box, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit Voice T.H.E. Movement, has a passion for encouraging those who seek to inspire others. A portion of money generated goes toward the organization seeking to improve individuals’ quality of life through health, education, arts, entertainment, and technology.

A marketing consultant and former castmate on Black Entertainment Television‘s hit reality TV series College Hill: Interns, the event helps Box connect to marketing clients. It’s also a place where she can sell her self-help book, The 365 Go Get H.E.R.S. Guide.

Though Millennial Mixer is designed for business, personal relationships could potentially develop. “For us, it’s strictly business,” Box says. “Whatever happens, it’s on them."


Ministry employment lab works to end joblessness

Many people think of Metropolitan Ministries as a place that feeds the hungry and houses the homeless. But the ministry is also working to solve those problems by helping people find jobs. Just ask Chef Pete Bates. Or Bob Kines.

Bates runs a six-month training class for line cooks as part of a culinary arts program created by the ministry’s Vice President of Social Enterprise and Food Service Cliff Barsi. Graduates work at places like downtown Tampa’s Ulele’s and Mise en Place restaurants, and make use of their knife skills to advance.

Kines coordinates the Employment Lab, also known as the Computer Lab, which often serves as a port in the storm for the homeless who need a general mailing address -- or help creating a resume or free gmail account.

Some, looking for an alternative to day labor pools, turn to the ministry for help securing an entry-level job. “We’re basically ... a quick fix or a Bandaid, with the hope of getting them a little more self confidence,” explains Bill Stone, the ministry’s outreach services manager. “Our future goal is to hopefully have more employers know who we are, and have more communications.”

Though the process is informal, the ministry can refer the needy to employers looking for entry-level help. “They just need somebody that’s reliable,” Kines says. “They [the homeless or displaced] are not at a real disadvantage to anybody else when it come to entry-level employers.”

The people who end up at Metropolitan Ministries, located at 2301 N. Tampa St. in Tampa, are of varying education levels. But its GED program is there to help those who don’t have a high school diploma. Instruction also is available with personal finance.

A frequent limitation is lack of transportation. “Very few of the folks that come in here have their own transportation, which does limit some of the things we can have them engage in,” Kines adds.

Read more on for job opportunities in the Tampa Bay area:

  • The city of Tampa is listing 13 job openings, among them a Benefits and Human Resources Management System manager requiring five years of experience, three in a supervisory capacity. The full-time position, which pays $70,532.80 - $110,676.80 annually, requires at least a bachelor’s degree in human resources, business/public administration or a related field. Among the other openings are fleet mechanic II, automotive equipment operator III, building maintenance tradesworker I and police officer. Learn more here.
  • Johnson and Johnson has an opening for a junior graphic designer at the company’s Vogue International in Clearwater. A candidate with a bachelor’s degree or higher in communications, graphic arts, advertising, interactive media or a business-related field is sought. Graphic design experience – and thorough knowledge of Adobe Creative Cloud Suite -- is required. The company also is seeking a clinical specialist in Tampa for NeuWave Medical, a division of Ethicon and a member of the Johnson and Johnson Family of Companies. The candidate must have at least a high school diploma and related medical training; an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a healthcare field is preferred. At least five years of medical experience is required. Visit the Johnson and Johnson website for more details and other openings.
  • Walker Consultants in Tampa is looking for a civil/structural engineering intern this summer to assist project managers in new design and renovation projects. The position, which runs from May to August, involves collecting data, participating in on-site survey teams, and assisting in the design of conventional elements. The company also is seeking a project accountant with an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance and one to five years of experience. Check current openings here.
  • McClatchy is seeking a medical media consultant to work in the advertising department at The Bradenton Herald. The job pays salary plus commission. Candidates should be knowledgeable about and use consultative sales practices; experience in media or digital sales is a plus. Learn more here.
  • Franklin Templeton Investments is recruiting a senior client service representative-international transfer agent for its St. Petersburg office. Job candidates must speak English and Spanish and possess an undergraduate degree or equivalent experience. Learn more about this job or other Franklin Templeton openings here.
  • Tampa’s Haneke Design is seeking a User Interface Designer, an iOS Mobile Application Developer and an Android Mobile Application Developer. Candidates can learn more and apply at the company’s website.

If you are hiring skilled workers with five or less years of experience, drop us a line.


Job fairs recruit road crews, students, stadium and beach help

State contractors are looking for road construction crews for long-term work in the Tampa Bay Area.

“In the next 10 years, Tampa is the focus area,” says Rich Alvarez, director of workforce development for the Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-entry Coalition. “They’ll be long-term jobs.”

PERC is a partner in The Pinellas County Construction Careers Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, at Pinellas Technical College, 901 34th St. S., St. Petersburg.

“We’re going to have clients there that are looking for jobs,” Alvarez says.

Typically the applicant pool is small for road construction jobs, which involve physical labor outdoors. “Companies are more willing to consider people they might not have considered in past,” he says.

The fair is an opportunity for jobseekers 18 and older to meet with contractors ready to hire for positions like general laborers, pipe layers, welders, carpenters, traffic flaggers, paving and concrete workers, and heavy machinery operators. Openings exist for both experienced and inexperienced candidates. The program’s goal is to boost the number of minorities, females and veterans in federal- and state-funded roadway construction jobs. 

Employees are being sought for the Gateway Expressway Project and other active road and bridge projects in the region. The Florida Department of Transportation currently has 19 ongoing road projects in Hillsborough County and another 17 in Pinellas County.  Learn more about local road projects here.

Applicants should be drug free, eligible to work in the United States, capable of lifting 50 to 90 pounds, and have transportation to work. Interested individuals are advised to bring resumes and a great attitude to the free Onboard4Jobs event. Registration is encouraged, but it isn’t necessary. Learn more at On Board 4 Jobs

Other partners in the fair include FDOT and Quest Corporation of America.

In Tampa, University of South Florida students and alumni from all campuses will be converging on the Marshall Student Center on the main campus soon for three separate job fairs.

The All Majors Fair is slated from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, followed by the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1. The Accounting and Financial Services Fair is scheduled on Friday, Feb. 2, at the same times. Learn more here.

Continue reading for information about other Tampa Bay area job fairs.

  • Looking for part-time work? Check out the Aramark Job Fair at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Wednesday, Jan. 24. The free event kicks off at 5 p.m. and lasts until 7 p.m. Attendees need to RSVP and bring a resume for these part-time seasonal, event-based jobs. Aramark is looking for bartenders, catering attendants, cleaning crew, concession stand workers, concession supervisors, cooks, retail sales associates, runners, stand leads, suite runners and a warehouse worker. Positions may involve nights, weekends and holidays. Interested parties should apply beforehand for one or two positions at most. Interviews will be inside the East Galley/Club Entrance. Candidates should enter at Gate B, with the guard shack on the left. Learn more.
  • Be prepared to meet, interview and be hired at the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce job fair for the retail, hotel and restaurant industries Monday, Jan. 29. The Clearwater Beach Hospitality Job Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Clearwater Beach Recreation Center, 69 Bay Esplanade, Clearwater Beach. The event is free. Register online.
  • Jobertising.com has planned its Tampa Career Fair with diversity in mind. The fair, scheduled Tuesday, Jan. 30, brings together jobseekers with diversity-minded companies. The free event is from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Airport – Westshore, 4500 West Cypress St., Tampa. Jobseekers should bring resumes and be prepared to interview.
  • All Support Services is holding its Tampa Job Fair and Hiring Event for healthcare workers Friday, Jan. 26. The free event will be held from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at 5404 Hoover Blvd., Suite 11, Tampa. All Support Services is looking for full-time, part-time, and temporary employees, with openings available for caregivers, certified nurse assistants, home health aids, support living coaches, support employment coaches, and administrative support. Jobseekers must wear business professional attire or scrubs and present a resume at the entrance.
  • It’s time to mark your calendars for METRO Job Fair 2018, an annual event hosted by Metro Places, CareerSource Pasco Hernando, the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce and Pasco-Hernando State College. The job fair will be held from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at the college’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, 2727 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel. Candidates should dress professionally, bring plenty of resumes and register in advance.
  • The Florida JobLink Career Fair for Tampa, Brandon and Lakeland area residents is slated from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, at Clarion Inn and Suites Conference Center, 9331 E. Adamo Dr., Tampa. Its mission is to connect the best candidates with companies seeking top talent, regardless of race, creed or other labels. A variety of jobs are being offered, including sales, management, customer service, insurance, education, government, information technology, human resources, engineering, blue collar, clerical and more. Career and resumes services are available at the free event. Learn more.
  • National Career Fairs is holding a free, live recruiting and hiring event from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, at Holiday Inn St. Petersburg North Clearwater, 3535 Ulmerton Rd., Clearwater. Jobseekers should register in advance, upload their resumes at NCF Jobs and wear business attire.
  • United Career Fairs is planning its Tampa Career Fair for sales, management and business jobseekers from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19, at Doubletree by Hilton Tampa Westshore Airport, 4500 West Cypress St., Tampa. The free event caters to jobseekers of varying experience levels, providing face-to-face meetings with hiring managers. Jobseekers are advised to arrive no later than 6 p.m. to hear company presentations, bring 10 to 15 copies of their resume, look motivated, and wear professional business attire.

WURK: Community radio for East and West Tampa

When Dee Jackson was growing up in the 1970s and '80s in West Tampa, his neighbors helped keep him in line when he became too curious. They were quick to reprimand him -- all over the neighborhood -- before he even got home.

But many people are reluctant to discipline another’s child these days, which empowers them to do wrong things, he says.

“That village concept, we have to get that back,” Jackson asserts.

That’s the idea behind 96.3 low-power FM station WURK, a community radio station serving East and West Tampa and a diverse audience of 460,000 potential listeners 24 hours a day in Hillsborough County. Its broadcast area extends from Mango on the east to the Howard Frankland Bridge on the west, Lutz on the north and MacDill Air Force Base on the south.

Other platforms, such as the Internet, expand the 100-watt station’s listening area to the entire globe.

WURK is intended to be a positive voice in the East and West Tampa neighborhoods, reporting the good news instead of the bad. It will be working to boost literacy and reduce high school dropout rates through job training.

“I know we will utilize radio as a tool to get the village back in shape,” says Jackson, who co-founded WURK with Horace Bailey.

The nonprofit, locally programmed station was made possible by the Local Community Radio Act, signed into law by former President Barack Obama. It was about five years in the making.

As a music producer, recording engineer and graphic designer, Jackson had been interested in doing radio programming as an outlet for musicians for a long time. He was inspired to actually start one while volunteering as an after-school youth arts coordinator in Brooksville.

WURK, owned and run by Rainbow Heights Neighborhood Association and Crime Watch Inc., offers music in a wide range of styles including Hip Hop, Folk, Latino, Jazz, Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Classical and Reggae. It is intended to appeal to African American, Carribean, Irish, Scottish, Italian, Latino, Indian, Jewish, Chinese, and other local groups.

“Our goal is to eliminate the division and create unity,” Jackson says.

Jackson, WURK’s General Manager, wants the station to serve as an outlet for musicians, but it also is intended to be a training ground for journalists, producers and graphic artists. The process has begun with two youths reading public service announcements. Later on trainees could cover high school football games.

In the future, he would like to partner with other media, training broadcast trainees by having them read on the air news stories written by the partners. Attributing the stories to the original news outlets would help them gain potential new readers.

Those who are trained may find jobs at the station as it grows. Job and business opportunity announcements by the station are intended to help others find success.

WURK also intends to help bridge a generation gap by reaching out to seniors and young people. “There was a communication breakdown,” he explains.

Now the radio station is focusing its attention on recruiting advisory board members; it currently has five including Dr. Carolyn Collins, former NAACP Tampa Chapter President; businessman Willie Anderson; James Green, who retired from United Parcel Services; Ralph Smith of Computer Mentors of Tampa; and Benjamin Baisden of West Tampa Alliance.

It's also soliciting funds to better help what he calls the “underserved,” in Tampa. “Funding is the key to be able to initiate those programs,” he says.

WURK, which has been on the air since April 2, already has raised some $25,000 for the endeavor. “I think the market is watching,” he says. “Participation is coming, and we’re growing with the help of a lot of our volunteers ... sharing our info on social media.”

While the station’s name is in line with its mission to train youths for jobs, it was actually inspired by all the work required into getting its call letters approved, Jackson says.


A force for healing through the arts in Tampa

Those who have found creative passions know how uplifting and soul-nourishing the arts can be, even in rough times. For military veterans, simply returning to civilian life can be difficult and painful on many levels.
 
Enter: Creative Forces.

In a joint project between Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs, the NEA, and Americans for the Arts, Creative Forces Summit will be honing in on Tampa for panel discussions revolving around military healing arts and community collaboration at the Straz Center on Oct. 23 & 24.
 
Panel discussions range from types of creative art therapies to building a more collaborative union between the arts and military communities, with performances and open mic sessions interspersed throughout the two-day event.
 
Art therapists who work closely with veterans see the progress of their work, albeit anecdotally. One of the highlights of this event will be talks by Andrea Assaf, artistic director of Art2Action -- which has been working closely with veterans since 2011. She will discuss her role in leading the program design for creating a clinical study to measure tangible success with military healing arts.
 
“We spent a year doing this study, which was designed by a collaborative process. In order to measure impact, we had to come up with a mixed-methods approach where the USF Psychology Department leads a quantitative process while the VA works on qualitative process,” Assaf says.
 
She has been running volunteer workshops at a branch of the VA, the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, for over 4 years. While Assaf’s strengths rest in theatre, poetry and creative writing, she brings in guest artists to open up veterans to other artistic mediums.

The James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital is already a Creative Forces clinical site, with Tampa working on a Telehealth Pilot Program for veterans in rural areas. Being nearby, the MacDill Air Force Base doesn't hurt either. Their approach to art therapy is simple: Treat it as a need, just like any other treatment.

“I see the arts change and move people. Artistic expression is an important component in the healing and recovering process. What the government wants to see in terms of funding is data. The intention of this study is to document what we know intuitively into usable data to inspire further study and investment both from private and public funds in supporting this kind of work,” Assaf says.

For more information about arts programs and events in Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay region, visit The Arts Council website.

To suggest additional story ideas, email 83 Degrees.

To subscribe to our free weekly e-magazine, follow this link.

Digital marketplace can cut surgical supply expenses

A Largo-based startup has opened a digital marketplace for the surgical supplies resale industry. Think eBay. Or Amazon. For single-use surgical supplies like staples, needles, shears, forceps, mesh and patches.

The company, called The Index, wants to combine both E-bay and Amazon online sales strategies for the niche market where waste adds up to billions annually.

“The manufacturers, they typically sell in boxes of six, 10 or 100. That’s the only way a facility can buy a product,” explains Founder Jon Bird. “Once they open a box, the manufacturer won’t take it back.”

These medical/surgical supplies only have a limited shelf life, so items used infrequently can easily expire. Additionally, a change in physicians and/or contracts may mean certain supplies are not used, or not used as much.

“They come from the manufacturer with a finite shelf life, typically about five years,” Bird says. “We have an opportunity to sort of rescue those products before they expire.”

The first online marketplace designed to bring together hospitals, surgical centers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and resellers, The Index requires users to sign up and be vetted. Sellers can list their own products for sale, much like vendors do on Ebay, or let The Index handle the sales and shipping, much like Amazon does.

Membership is free. The Index makes money by keeping 10 or 20 percent of the sales, depending on the sales model.

Bird noticed the need for more advanced technology when he was employed in the medical supply industry. He realized how inefficient it was for buyers to request multiple quotes on one or two items by email, then wait for replies.

“I just felt that there had to be a more efficient way, without having all the overhead of brick and mortar,” he says. “I felt we could accomplish this if we had the right tool, the right technology.”

The Index, started in late 2015, has 50 buyers and sellers primarily in the southeastern United States, plus more than 10,000 unique product listings.

“The back-end technology, which is proprietary, is relatively revolutionary,” Bird says. “What it can accomplish can be revolutionary.”

It will save money, reduce waste and allow hospitals to do what they do best: save lives, adds spokesman Franco Ripple.

Although the medical/surgical resale market is huge, with some hospitals potentially spending $5 to $10 million annually on these products, the company doesn’t plan to stop there. Its goal is to expand into medical equipment and medical power tools.

The privately-funded company has a staff of six and plans to grow its sales staff in the next year. “Our goal is to add between four and eight sales people,” he says. “Some would be inside, and some would be out.”

 It also plans to double its 3500 square foot offices at the end of the year.

The Index is entering the scene at a time when the industry’s group purchasing organizations are coming into disfavor. Some facilities are choosing to do their own purchase negotiations -- and avoid the fees.

I think we’ve come in at a great time,” Bird notes.


St. Pete investor, USFSP create forum for OPEN learning, sharing ideas

Much like open source software transformed the software industry, a St. Petersburg-based thought cooperative is poised to change people's lives through intellectual exchanges and collaborations in the greater Tampa Bay Area.

The cooperative is aptly called OPEN, the Open Partnership Education Network. It will be encouraging open sharing and innovation, while providing the tools that make it possible.

“In our current paradigm, the philosophy is closed and you work within your silos,” explains Walter Fernando Balser, OPEN’s Founding Director.

Similar to the collaboration spawned in the software industry by open collaboration on software like Wordpress, an open source publishing platform, OPEN looks to bring together people to share ideas. Some themes they are working with include seeds, future cities and radical schools.

“It’s revolutionary for the city of St. Petersburg, but it’s not revolutionary for other cities like Austin, Texas,” Balser asserts.

Themed events are more than interesting meetings where people can network, talk about interesting ideas and then go home and forget about it. “You have a framework in place that allows those thought leaders to continue to collaborate on the next experiences,” he explains.

The open framework for St. Petersburg could be shared very easily with any community, he adds.

OPEN evolved from an idea by Jim Aresty, a St. Petersburg transplant, who enjoyed the intellectual stimulation offered by the nonpartisan forum, the Aspen Institute in Colorado. A retired women’s clothing manufacturer, Aresty was a long-time resident there and frequent summertime visitor of the institute.

After he began spending the winter’s in St. Petersburg about three years ago, he became captivated. “I absolutely just fell in love with the city. First and foremost, I just love the people,” Aresty says. “It feels really Midwest to me, very uncompetitive, friendly.”

But he missed the institute while here.

“I want the community to be invigorated and enlivened and educated, in the hopes that it will improve people lives,” Aresty says.

He now splits his time between St. Petersburg and Aspen, spending seven months in St. Pete. And OPEN is off and running, expected to officially start themed discussions in November in connection with the city’s Et Cultura Festival featuring music, film and interactive culture. All thanks to contributions from Aresty.

Initially, he provided enough funds for a staff director for one year, expected to expire in July, with office space and administration provided by USFSP. Now he’s providing significant funding that can continue the endeavor for five years, after which it’s intended to be self-supporting.

OPEN is partnering with the USF College of Marine Science, St. Petersburg College’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, Poynter Institute for Media Studies, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Et CulturaIt plans to continue to grow its network.

Ultimately, Aresty believes St. Pete will be attracting more people like him: middle-aged and older folks with part-time residences here who want “to be inspired and to be invigorated intellectually, to be involved and to have ways to learn and to grow,” he says.

“I just thought it was a great way to give to my new city that I love,” he says.


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.”

On The Ground: RCMA welcomes new leadership from Miami-Dade

To read this story in Spanish, please follow this link.

For the first time in 28 years, Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) of Florida will welcome new leadership.
 
Gayane A. Stepanian, 45, an executive with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade, has been picked as RCMA’s next Executive Director. 

Stepanian will succeed executive director Barbara Mainster, 75, on Jan. 2. 

RCMA is a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality child development services for farmworker families and other rural, low-income families in child-care centers, family day-care homes, after-school dropout prevention programs and charter schools. Mainster served as executive director from 1988 to the present. 

“I am inspired and humbled to join RCMA,” Stepanian says. “I am thrilled to join others who are absolutely dedicated to delivering world-class child care and education for our most vulnerable kids.” 

The organization, which began with 75 children in two child-care centers, now serves nearly 7,000 children in 68 centers in rural areas of 21 Florida counties. It also operates three charter schools, in Hillsborough and Collier counties.
 
“I think you will all agree that Gayane is a wonderful addition to the RCMA family,” Mainster told the RCMA staff, via e-mail. “I like her, and know you will, as well.” 

More than 80 percent of the children RCMA serves are Hispanic, and 11 percent are African-American. In addition, 85 percent of RCMA employees come from backgrounds similar to the communities they serve. 

Mainster believes that Stepanian’s background qualifies her as an excellent successor. Stepanian is the daughter of a Mexican mother and an Armenian father, and is fluent in English and Spanish. 

“My parents came to this country with nothing but their sheer will,” Stepanian says. “It is that same will and passion that I see in our volunteers, staff and families at RCMA. RCMA, to me, is like coming home.”
 
Since 2014, Stepanian has been Director of Grants Development for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Miami. She is a child safety expert with degrees in psychology and education, and is a mother of three teenagers. 

Restaurateur encourages patrons to skip the straw

Drinking straws are standard fare at most restaurants. Whenever we order a cold beverage, it usually comes with a straw, and we use it to slurp our water, teas or sodas in a matter of minutes. Afterwards, the straws end up littering our beaches and landfills.
 
“We see those [straws] out on the beach everywhere, those and cracker wrappers,” says Ed Chiles, owner of Chiles Restaurant Group.
 
So Chiles decided to do something about it. He has quit serving “old-style,” non-biodegradable plastic beverage straws.
 
“If they want a straw they’re going to get a straw. We’ve got a good [biodegradable] backup,” says Chiles, who owns Ana Maria’s Sandbar, Bradenton Beach’s Beach House and Longboat Key’s Mar Vista Dockside restaurants.
 
Chiles is partnering with the Washington, D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy to educate the public about the single-use plastic straws and protect our oceans. According to the Conservancy, straws are one of the top 10 items collected during cleanups.
 
Chiles’ campaign includes green messages encouraging customers to “Skip the Straw.”  So far, it has been working.
 
“I think it has gone very well overall. I think people understand. At first, there’s that little pause. They think about it and they get it,” Chiles says.
 
His servers are on board. “Our people have embraced it. If your servers aren’t behind it, you’ve got a problem,” he explains.
 
Chiles calls removing the plastic beverage straw “one small step.” He’s already ditched plastic cups and individually wrapped crackers, opting for glasses and sleeves of crackers. Plans include a complete line of eco-friendly “to go” containers and reusable packing crates.
 
He has gardens to grow their own herbs and spices. “The kitchen guys go out and work it,” says Chiles, an honorary faculty member of the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability. “We are all about local sustainable.”
 
Although his menus feature seafood, you also may find wild boar, considered an invasive species. “We take lemons and make limoncello,” he quips. “People think they [wild boars] are not any good, but they’re wrong. It’s fabulous. It’s one of my favorite meats.”
 
Even his parking lots are environmentally friendly. For the last decade, he has been a leader in pervious or porous parking lots, setting an example about how to deal with stormwater on commercial properties.
 
Chiles isn’t stopping with the beverage straw. Now he’s looking for a bio-degradable cocktail straw.
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