Atlantic Technical College fills voids in the Florida job market

On a busy weekday at Atlantic Technical College, dental assistant students train hands-on in a classroom that isn’t much different from a patient-care room at a dentist’s office. In a nearby repair shop, a group of students huddle over a disassembled air conditioning unit, trying to assess what’s caused it to stop cooling. 

The training will almost assure the students job placement when they complete their coursework. Considered a “career college” since the goal is to graduate workers that can fill industry shortages in Florida, ATC keeps an eye on the constantly evolving voids in certain professions and works closely with the state’s employers.

Opening in 1973, the college, on its 32-acre Coconut Creek campus, offers 40 certificate or applied technology diploma programs in such occupations as information technology, manufacturing, automotive, the health sciences, construction, management and culinary arts.

Elyssa Harvey, the college’s coordinator of business, community and economic development, says students who come to the school are in various situations in their lives. “We have people here who haven’t finished high school to empty nesters who are now deciding it’s their turn, all the way up to those with doctoral degrees looking for a second career,” Harvey says.

Nationwide, technical colleges are seeing an enrollment upswing, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Historically, as the economy improves, Americans want to get into the workforce more quickly, and in jobs that pay more than minimum wage, the DOE says.

Another draw, Harvey says, is the “reasonable” cost of ATC’s programs—$2.80 a contact hour (the measure that represents an hour of scheduled instruction given to a student) for Florida residents. ATC, a public school, operates under the Broward County School Board and the Florida Department of Education.

Then there’s the swiftness at which they can enter the workforce. Large signs posted throughout the campus boast of having a “career in a year,” as most programs can be completed in less than 18 months.

“Many of the students are looking at a targeted timeframe because they want to get their credentials and skill set and get a job,” Harvey says.

Florida’s fastest-growing industry is construction, currently at almost 6 percent compared to 3 percent for all industries in the state, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Already offering programs in building trades, the college will add a carpentry program in August to attract more people to the industry, Harvey says.

Automotive repair programs are filled to capacity there. One of the most desirable is the school’s award-winning Toyota Technician Training and Education Network, an intense training and academic program in partnership with Toyota Motor Sales USA; Southeast Toyota Distributors; local Toyota, Lexus and Scion dealers; and Broward College. As part of the two-year program, students are guaranteed an internship at a Toyota/Lexus dealership, and are required to pass the industry standard exam from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence.

“Some students are people who have been in a job for a long time, but their jobs are no longer useful,” says Kenneth Bergmann, chairman of the school’s automotive and technology trades department. “They are looking for something that they can do—and [that they can] learn to do quickly.”

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Monarch High School  senior Nicole Knorr was one of several county students awarded an Arts for the Future Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded to county seniors who plan to pursue the arts in college.

Coconut Creek Elementary PTA member Jennine Wheeler was nominated for Volunteer of the Year (Elementary Level) at the 2017 Community Involvement Awards. The Broward County Public Schools awards recognize business partners, family engagement initiatives and mentors who benefit the school system. At the same awards, Publix of Winston Park Center won the Family and Community Engagement award. The supermarket was nominated by Winston Park Elementary.

Creek Technical Academy, at Coconut Creek High School, is looking for mentors for students. Call Roz Greenberg at 754.205.7283 for information. The school also hosts an open house on April 20 at 6 p.m. Call 754.322.0416 for more information.

Atlantic Technical College and Technical High School Main Campus

4700 Coconut Creek Parkway, Coconut Creek; 754.321.5100; atlantictechnicalcollege.edu