PGT Innovations, a national leader in the premium window and door category, is working to find solutions to the skilled labor shortage by partnering with Sarasota County (Florida) Schools to offer a new program called Pathway to PGTI.
“I often say we’re not just a window and door company, we're an innovation company; when we see a problem, we innovate a solution,” said Jeff Jackson, PGT Innovations president and CEO. “The problem we saw was in the workforce. Or rather, the lack of a workforce. Our Pathway to PGTI program allows students to train alongside a PGTI mentor during their school day and explore potential career paths in manufacturing. We hope that it shows non-college-bound students that they can have successful careers, and many of those careers are right here in their backyard.”
The Venice-based company recently welcomed its first group of Venice High School students to the program. The students spend two hours of each school day at PGT Innovations, with part of that time dedicated to classroom training at PGTI’s new on-site training center and the rest of the time working alongside a skilled mentor.
“This program is similar to how college-bound students are able to earn early college credits,” said Debbie LaPinska, chief HR officer at PGT Innovations. “It provides an opportunity for high school juniors and seniors to develop skilled trade experience while still in school. Students who go through the Pathway to PGTI program benefit from a technical education path, guided training, and a viable employment opportunity after graduation. In addition, PGT Innovations offers tuition reimbursement, which encourages these young individuals to continue their education or training once they are part of our team.”
The program offers hands-on training in a variety of industrial jobs such as Industrial Maintenance Mechanic, Automation Technician, Welder, and Tool and Die Maker. It also teaches the young workers essential organizational and time management skills.
"This program aligns with PGTI's existing internal training for their own staff,” said Tripp Jennings, assistant director of CTE K-12 at Sarasota County Schools. “We’re excited about the program’s potential to develop high school students' technical manufacturing skills through guided, work-based learning."
"Ultimately, we would love for this program to supplement our recruitment efforts,” said LaPinska. “But if a student chooses to work at another manufacturer when they graduate, we would still count that as a win because it ultimately means success for our industry, our economy, and for that young individual."