Congratulations to Pinellas Technical College for being chosen as NC3’s March 2022 School on the Rise! Pinellas Technical College has been an NC3 leadership school since 2015. PTC’s Clearwater and St. Petersburg campuses offer impressive certifications for Festo, Snap-on Automotive, Greenlee, and Trane and participate in the annual NC3 CTE Letter of Intent Signing Day! PTC continues to demonstrate its dedication toward providing students with the resources necessary to pursue a prosperous career in the technical trades.
Since joining NC3 in 2015, PTC has issued over 800 certifications to students in the Tampa Bay area! Offering dual enrollment, apprenticeships, and job placement services, PTC’s mission revolves around their community. We had the pleasure of speaking with several valued staff members from each campus including Dr. Jakub Prokop, Robert Scicolone, Keith Whiteley, and Sylvester Norwood.
Dr. Jakub Prokop has been a director at PTC for almost seven years. Starting out as an automotive technician, Dr. Prokop was introduced to the world of education after having a conversation with his employer. He said, “I was an automotive technician, and one day my employer asked me to teach technicians how to connect computers to cars. We went through everything in class, even how to use a mouse. I fell in love with teaching immediately.”
With education being one of the largest industries in the area, it’s important for PTC to stand out among the crowd. Dr. Prokop acknowledges the responsibility PTC has in providing meaningful education to all of its students. As an educator and a member of the administration, he encourages students and instructors to grow confidence alongside their technical skills. He said,
“We created a simulated workplace in our college. We give students the opportunity to gain national workplace competencies. We generate the same models that students would see in the businesses they will work in. We want students to have the confidence to begin their entry level position.”
Since becoming a member of a large college, Dr. Prokop has learned the importance of recognizing students for their individual achievements. He described how NC3 has helped with instilling confidence in PTC’s students. In addition to offering industry-recognized credentials, they like to celebrate their students with certifications for things like GPA, perfect attendance, and most improved. Most of their programs have a wall that shows each student and the certifications they’ve received. He said,
“I like the whole certification process in general. It raises the bar and levels the playing field. Our students realize not everyone can do what they’re doing and we recognize their effort and achievements.”
Pinellas Technical College designed a program called Employ PTC where local businesses partner with the institution to provide training opportunities for the Tampa Bay community. Dr. Prokop describes the partnerships as helpful during the curriculum development process. He said, “It helps us develop the expectations we have for our students.”
For Dr. Prokop, education comes naturally to him. He notes the key differences between secondary and post-secondary education, with K-12, you focus on developing the child. Post-secondary, you’re developing the community and economy.”
Robert Scicolone discussed his experience with NC3’s Train-the-Trainer. He said, “I enjoyed the courses. I’ve taken previous courses for Snap-on equipment before and I felt NC3’s course was more in-depth.”
Keith Whiteley, an Auto Service Instructor at PTC’s St. Petersburg Campus, started out in the automotive industry like Dr. Prokop. After working in a facility handling over 200 cars daily, Mr. Whiteley began teaching night classes at PTC on his days off. His enthusiasm and passion for educating his students are evident as he described his time at the St. Petersburg campus. He said,
“The beautiful part of it is that when they come through the program, I spend a good portion of my day almost as a stand-in parent. Yes, I’m teaching automotive, but I’ve learned that students will tell you everything. I teach them how to show up on time, basic manners, and social skills. Then they come back and thank me. Those success stories, combined with the relationship I have with my students are what makes it worth it.”
Mr. Whiteley believes that growing confidence in students is the key to their success. Using NC3’s curriculum helps motivate his students to complete their certifications. He finds the certification process valuable. Mr. Whiteley describes NC3 certifications as being designed to ensure that students really understand the concepts and materials. He said,
“Certifications help give the students confidence. ‘I passed that test, why can’t I pass another one?’ You’re giving them a lifetime skill that never expires. They can fall, but they won’t be defeated. They know it and they have the confidence to keep going. Every certification they can get their hands on reinforces that confidence.”
When Keith was growing up, he remembers high schools suggesting technical education for the students who didn’t have any other path. Now, he’s proud to see the professional world view technical education for what it is: a vital part of society. He said, “Technical education is finally being recognized. It’s a different world.”
Sylvester Norwood has been a director at PTC’s St. Petersburg campus for over 13 years. Starting out in Huntsville, Alabama with an education degree, he moved to Florida and began his journey in CTE. A humble educator, Mr. Norwood is happy to endorse PTC’s mission of issuing NC3 certifications to students from all walks of life. He said, “It’s been rewarding. You get a chance to work with adults, see people get employed, even people who get it for a hobby. It’s a big deal.”
Mr. Norwood views PTC as a community school. He caters to programs that are relevant to the community’s businesses and industries. He said, “We look to them to tell us what is and isn’t relevant.” He thanks NC3 for making a difference in the lives of his students. From Train-the-Trainer to NC3’s industry-curated curriculum, Mr. Norwood looks forward to continuing to provide his instructors with the opportunity to learn more with NC3. He said,
“Our students have a different attitude now because they know their instructors are serious. NC3’s curriculum has made a big difference. The instructors are excited to work with it. Bringing in an organization like NC3, who focuses on the industry, aligns us with things we don’t know.”
So, what’s next for Pinellas Technical College?
The staff at PTC are proud of the direction their programs are going. In the future, they hope to continue making a positive impact on the lives of their students, their families, and the community. Dr. Prokop attributes PTC’s success to its commitment to fulfilling its mission. He says, “The reason why Pinellas is successful is because we have a well-defined mission and we follow that mission. Our mission revolves around the opportunity to provide our students with national workplace competencies. That’s how we make decisions.”
Congratulations, once again, to Pinellas Technical College! We could not be more proud to honor you as NC3’s March School on the Rise and we are looking forward to supporting your continued success in Career and Technical Education!
Stay tuned for our next School on the Rise recipient in April 2022!
Questions about NC3’s School on the Rise? Please contact Erika Staackmann, Customer Success Coordinator, 847.533.6985, Erika.Staackmann@nc3.net