Category Archives: Education & Talent Development


SlingShot Polk Business Plan Competition Offers Cash, Mentoring to Student Entrepreneurs

SLingshot Logo

Young entrepreneurs in Polk County have a chance to win cash and mentoring from experts thanks to a new competition spearheaded by local education and business leaders.

Small businesses represent 98% of the employers in the state of Florida, demonstrating the need for businesses and educators to encourage creative entrepreneurship that drives the state’s economic growth.

High school and college students under age 25 are invited to enter business plans outlining a new idea or venture that provides measurable benefit to the Polk County region. Teams with up to four members are also eligible.

Entries must include a one-page summary business plan and are submitted online at Judges will select up to 12 semi-finalists from entries submitted by January 30.

Students interested in entering the competition can find helpful videos and tips on entrepreneurship at and


FSC Commencement to Honor Saddle Creek Founder David Lyons

Florida Southern College will hold its Winter Commencement exercises on Saturday, December 13, at 10:30 a.m. in the Branscomb Auditorium. Of the approximately 163 degrees to be awarded, 44 will be graduate degrees in business, education, and nursing.

Kevin M. Hyman, the executive vice president of operations of Bright House Networks, will be the commencement speaker, and Florida Southern College Trustee David P. Lyons, founder and chairman of Saddle Creek Logistics Services, will be presented with the honorary Doctor of Business degree.

Mr. Hyman oversees all operations including customer service, field operations, marketing, sales, finance, communications and government relations for Bright House, the nation’s sixth largest cable operator. He is also responsible for Bright House Networks’ award-winning 24-hour news channels and sports channel: News 13 in Orlando, Bay News 9 and Bright House Network Sports. He is a 29-year veteran of the television industry and joined Time Warner Cable, the predecessor to Bright House Networks, in 1989.  He is actively engaged in the community and serves on numerous boards that include the Board of Enterprise Florida and the Florida Cable Television Association. Mr. Hyman was awarded his undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Northern Colorado and his graduate degree in Economics from the University of Rhode Island

Mr. Lyons, a graduate of the University of Florida, was inducted into the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame in 2004, and was among the Florida finalists for Ernst & Young’s 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He founded the company, formerly known as Saddle Creek Corporation, in 1966. It now employs more than 2,500 associates and operates more than 16 million square feet of space in 37 locations nationwide, with core services of warehousing, transportation, packaging, and fulfillment. The company has recently received several industry awards, including recognition by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America, and is widely recognized as a leader in the use of alternative fuels for freight transportation.

At each commencement, a Senior Speaker, representing the senior class, addresses the convocation. This year the Senior Speaker will be Danielle Snodgrass from Fairfax, Va., who is receiving a B.A. in Advertising and Public Relations.

During the commencement ceremony, one of the graduating seniors will be presented the President’s Scholar medal. The medal honors a graduate whose academic standing is in the top 1 percent, who exemplifies the values of the College, and who has a demonstrated commitment to scholarship, student leadership and service.

poly bus

Florida Poly Students Enjoy Free Bus Rides as the Polytechnic Circuit Express Celebrates Grand Opening


poly bus

Florida Polytechnic University students, faculty and staff have free access to the Polytechnic Circuit Express, thanks to a partnership that officially kicked off Wednesday between the University, Polk Transit and the Cities of Lakeland and Auburndale.

A 32-passenger bus provided by the Cities of Lakeland and Auburndale will now connect the University community to popular housing, shopping and entertainment in the region.

To celebrate the Polytechnic Circuit Express service option, an official ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony took place at Florida Polytechnic University on Wednesday. City officials from Lakeland and Auburndale traveled to the ceremony from their respective cities aboard two Polk Transit buses – each wrapped in a Florida Polytechnic theme.

“It’s exciting to be able to offer our students safe and convenient bus service to help them get to class, socialize with friends and explore all that our region has to offer. The response to the Polytechnic Circuit has been great so far and we continue to see increased participation from our students,” said University President Dr. Randy K. Avent. “I’m very grateful to our partners Polk Transit, the City of Lakeland and the City of Auburndale for their commitment to this project, the University and most importantly, our students.”

Monday through Saturday, the Polytechnic Circuit Express takes students from the University to four apartment complexes (Arbor Glen, The Landings, Victoria Manor and The Preserve), through Downtown Lakeland, and then back to Florida Polytechnic. Late night service is offered on Friday and Saturday, and limited Sunday service provides an extra stop at Lakeside Village.

In addition to the Polytechnic Circuit Express, students, faculty and staff with a valid Florida Poly ID also have free access to the entire bus system in Polk County.

“This partnership is a great example of how our region can work together for the greater good,” said Executive Director of Polk Transit Tom Phillips. “Students enjoy safe, reliable transportation, and the local businesses will benefit from the increased student traffic. We are delighted to work with the Cities of Lakeland and Auburndale on this project.”

For more information about the Polytechnic Circuit Express Bus Service, please visit


Polk State Receives Third Department of Labor Grant in Three Years

Polk State College has received yet another grant to expand its manufacturing training programs to meet the needs of area employers.

“This is our third Department of Labor grant in three years, and with each one we have created new routes to employment in high-need sectors of our local economy. We’re very excited the federal government continues to recognize and invest in the good work we’re doing here in Polk County, and around the state, thanks to our partners in education and industry,” said Polk State President Eileen Holden.

Vice President Joe Biden announced last week that in the final round of the Department of Labor’s four-year Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training initiative (TAACCCT), community colleges around the country will receive $450 million in grants to provide innovative training programs in partnership with local employers.

Of the $450 million, Polk State College will receive approximately $1.76 million to develop a training program for the manufactured construction industry.

Polk State Director of Applied Technology Eric Roe explained that just as consumer goods are produced in factories, the construction of residential homes and commercial structures is increasingly taking place in controlled, off-site environments. One way to think about the move toward manufactured construction: You wouldn’t build a computer outside.

“By building structural components in a factory-controlled environment, companies can control quality and cost,” Roe said. “They can create components that, when transported to the site, meet codes and are energy-efficient, and, using those components, structures can be constructed in half the time of built-on-site structures.”

Roe added a shortage of on-site construction workers is also contributing to the move toward manufactured construction.

However, manufactured construction demands highly skilled workers, who not only possess building know-how, but also understand manufacturing processes.

Polk State’s training program will provide a program of skills, training and education specially designed for the manufactured construction industry.

Participants will progress through the program by earning certifications developed in close cooperation with the National Center for Construction Education and Research, the Home Builders Institute, and the Manufactured Skill Standards Council, as well as industry partners.

The certifications will include:

*   Prevocational and Vocational Training Certificate

*   Entry-Level Training and Certificate

*   Apprentice-Level Training and Certificate

*   Journeyman-Level Training and Certificate

*   Supervisor-Level Training and Certificate

Work completed toward these certificates will also apply to two- and four-year degree programs across the state, including Polk State College’s two-year degree in Engineering Technology.

Polk State was a member of the four-institution consortium that submitted the TRAMCON (Training and Certification Programs in Manufactured Construction) proposal to the Department of Labor. All total, the TRAMCON proposal received more than $9.9 million, with proposal lead Miami Dade receiving nearly $5 million, and Santa Fe College and Seminole State College receiving approximately $1.5 million and $1.9 million respectively.

Polk State received grant funding in the second and third rounds of TAACCCT as well. In 2013, Polk received $1.6 million to add a mechanical design and fabrication concentration to its Engineering Technology degree and to support welding instruction at Traviss Career Center. The year before, it received $1.2 million to provide accelerated training in advanced manufacturing.

Polk State’s Engineering Technology associate’s degree prepares students for employment and provides additional training in advanced manufacturing and high- technology industries. Polk State also houses the Manufacturing Talent Development Institute, a statewide resource that develops industry-driven training strategies, educational programs and certifications for the advanced manufacturing industry.

POlk Underwater Robots

Polk Students Build Underwater Robots, Competition Coming in February

POlk Underwater RobotsPolk County students will get some hands-on experience this year constructing 10 underwater robotic vehicles.

A combination of high school and elementary students will build these educational contraptions while studying robotics, engineering, science, and mathematics.

Students from Kathleen High School will mentor fifth- and six-graders attending the accelerated learning program at Valleyview Elementary. Throughout the project, students will learn engineering concepts, problem-solving techniques, teamwork, and technical skills.

A robotics team at the University of Florida has also been invited to share advice and assistance.

The students’ underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) will dive into action and showcase what they can do during a competition being planned at a local swimming pool in February.

George Bartuska, who teaches science at Kathleen, and Lori Bradner, a teacher at Valleyview, will be working together to make the underwater robotic vehicle project a success.

The project was made possible with a $1,925 grant from SeaPerch, an educational program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. The funding will purchase the materials needed to build these robots.

Bartuska applied for the grant, which he learned about while attending an oceanography workshop held recently at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.