Pool Service America

Inspired by incentives from the state government, the Florida pool/spa industry is moving forward with plans to help educate new workers.

Recently, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced an ambitious goal for the Sunshine State to lead the nation in workforce and technical training. He issued an executive order to pump more than $26 million into vocational programs at state colleges.

The state currently ranks 24th in technical training based on the number of people aged 24 to 64 with an associate degree or higher or with a workforce certificate, according to local media.

The funding boost is intended to equip more people with technical skills, and possibly even create new educational programs geared toward specific industries.

At least, that’s what the Florida Swimming Pool Association is hoping.

FSPA has long desired to see a course to prepare skilled tradespeople for a career in the industry and nearly arranged with a technical school to offer it. In 2017, the association planned a 600-hour course to be offered by Manatee Technical College in Bradenton. While that deal fell through, the governor’s workforce-training initiative has FSPA revisiting plans for a college course.

The trade group recently organized a new education committee, chaired by Rick Howard, to develop the curriculum and shop it around to vocational schools. Howard replaces Jim Bingold, who now serves as FSPA president. Each of the association’s 16 chapters has a role in creating the content.

“Our goal is to approach the trade schools with a more complete program,” said Mary Anderson, FSPA’s education program manager.

The curriculum would first have to go through an accreditation process to be approved by the state.

In the meantime, FSPA is rolling out other education initiatives — among them, its very own training center. The trade group recently acquired a building next to its Sarasota headquarters. Plans aren’t yet finalized, but the facility will likely have working pool and spa equipment where people can get hands-on training. It would serve builders, retailers and service professionals alike, and would be open to everyone in the industry, not just FSPA members.

The association hopes to have the facility open by fall, Anderson said.

“We have industry partners really looking forward to having this location on the Gulf Coast,” Anderson said.

There are also efforts to reach high-school students. FSPA officials will attend a Future Builders of America event where it will instruct students on how to replace equipment at a commercial pool.

“The idea is we want the pool industry to be an attractive option, not a fallback,” Howard said.