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St. Petersburg College: Preparing Students for High-Wage, In-Demand Jobs

St. Petersburg College

In 2016, St. Petersburg College (SPC) received the Governor's Higher Education Leadership Award for producing graduates who earn the highest entry-level wages among Florida’s state colleges.

In addition, SPC alumni ranked first in the state of Florida and fifth in the United States, among two-year colleges, for possessing the most valuable job skills, according to the nonprofit Metropolitan Policy Program at the highly respected Brookings Institution.

“Our number one goal at St. Petersburg College is helping improve our students’ lives, and increasing earning power is a surefire way to do that,” said SPC President Bill Law.

These distinctions set SPC graduates apart and are a reflection of the College’s initiatives that focus on setting students up for success. SPC’s “Start Smart – Finish Strong” approach begins with an orientation that gives new students all the tools and resources they need to start their college journey. Discussions about career goals start on day one, so students begin with a clearly defined path to get them to their goals.

Recently, St. Petersburg College launched 10 Career and Academic Communities, designed to provide students with a cohort of peers with similar academic interests and certified Career Development Facilitators who specialize in specific academic areas.

Students then receive clear-cut directions on the sequence of courses they should take through SPC’s Career and Academic Pathways. This eliminates confusion with course selections and provides a clear pathway to strong career options. Students can also gain industry-recognized certifications and academic certificates that are embedded in their program, so they can begin building their résumé, or even working, right away.

Jack A. Crooks, who is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Public Policy, said his customized pathway took the guesswork out of the timing and sequencing of his courses.

“Being able to see the full scope of my degree requirements in one easy-to-use tool makes it much easier for me to schedule my classes and balance my workload,” Crooks said. “It’s really given me the foundation to complete my program and earn my degree.”

As part of their degree program, students at SPC also participate in active learning, which translates to top skills sought by employers.

“The informatics certificate program I took was really awesome,” said Sarah Rawdon, who earned her Health Services Administration Bachelor of Applied Science degree. “SPC really helped me with time management, and the curriculum was always relevant to industry needs.”

St. Petersburg College works closely with business partners in the Tampa Bay area to align programs with workforce needs, so graduates are prepared to compete for high-wage jobs. Industry leader Tech Data has hired dozens of SPC graduates over the past few years, and many have already seen multiple promotions, according to Angie Beltz McCourt, Vice President, Cisco Solutions Group at Tech Data.

“I would absolutely recommend St. Pete College as a great place to start,” Beltz said. “St. Pete College is always looking for ways to make it as beneficial as possible for the students to be able to get a degree and get the education they need to be successful out in the workplace.”

Officials with Monin, an international company headquartered in Clearwater that manufactures syrups used in coffee shops and restaurants around the world, said they see SPC students gaining the skills their business needs to continue to thrive.

“St. Pete College has come up with some great programs and training that cover all the supply chain trades,” said Monin VP of Supply Chain Management Jonathan Jones. “For me, if somebody’s got one o

f those qualifications and I’m looking for somebody in that area, I definitely think they’ll have a step up.”

SPC is also a smart choice for students who don’t want to be saddled with debt after college. With tuition that is 53 percent lower than the average of state universities and millions of dollars in scholarships awarded each year, SPC students spend far less for a quality education.

Graduates say that St. Petersburg College gives them the knowledge and hands-on skills to be successful in their careers.

“SPC will always be special to me because it was a turning point in my life,” said Rayford Dennis, who earned his Associate in Science in Human Services and Associate in Arts at St. Petersburg College. “It was the foundation upon which I built my career, and it gave me all the necessary tools to succeed with the transformation of my life.”

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