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Program working to keep recent grads, new jobseekers close to home in St. Lucie County

High schoolers ready to work, find manufacturing jobs
Posted: 7:51 PM, Jun 05, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-06 10:31:45Z

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — With unemployment at its lowest levels in more than a decade, local companies are trying to keep the next generation of job seekers close to home.

On Wednesday, two dozen recent St. Lucie County high school graduates are on a guided tour of Maverick Boat Group north of Fort Pierce. The graduates are part of a manufacturing boot camp.

This partnership between the education and business communities sparked by the St. Lucie County Economic Development Council and the Treasure Coast Manufacturers Association is designed to expose the group to a host of local businesses. At the end of the week, there’s a chance to sign on.

“I make the hydraulic hoses for the steering. The hose kits for the bilge pumps," said Matthew Bowden.

Bowden and Alex Morfi, two 2018 high school graduates, attended the boot camp last year. Now, they work at Maverick.

“For people my age coming straight out of high school, I didn’t think you could get a job like this," said Morfi.

Maverick opened a new facility on St. Lucie Boulevard less than a year ago and already employs 175 people at the plant, a number they expect to double in the next few years.

“We’re a very labor intensive business. It takes a lot of people to build boats.” Our experience here at Maverick is if they make it 90 days, they’re here forever," said Maverick Boat Group founder Scott Deal.

There are 6,200 manufacturing jobs in St. Lucie County with an average wage of more than $50,000.

“I’ve had a lot of great opportunities this past week, seen a lot of great things. Now I just have to make a choice," said Brennan Staidle, a recent Lincoln Park Academy graduate.

With the recent announcement of a mega-yacht service provider to the Port of Fort Pierce, both the St. Lucie County School District and Indian River State College are developing their own programs to build up that particular workforce. The boot camp will also serve as a pipeline to that field.