News and Public Media for North Central Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Nonprofit receives $1.73 million grant for broadband infrastructure training

Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion said he is excited about the grant being awarded. (Hugh Green/WUFT News)
Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion said he is excited about the grant being awarded. (Hugh Green/WUFT News)

CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion was awarded a $1.73 million grant to fund training courses for workers to install and maintain broadband infrastructure in the area.

The five-year grant is part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Building Pathways to Infrastructure Jobs program that helps people in the rural areas of North Central Florida get entry-level positions in the broadband industry.

CareerSource CLM covers Levy County and 10 other rural counties in the North Central Florida area. Rusty Skinner, the CEO, said he’s excited about this opportunity.

“We are ecstatic about this grant being awarded,” he said. “This program will not only help us build our brand as a workforce program, but it will also help those who are in need of jobs get ones that can set them up to be successful the rest of their lives.”

Skinner said most workers who are certified in these fields are offered positions averaging about $45,000 per year on entry.

CareerSource CLM will work with two other branches of to expand the area that the grant will cover.

“We thought it would be a great idea to bring in our counterparts at Florida Crown and North Florida to work with us to get this thing broadened even more,” Skinner said.

The College of Central Florida in Ocala will host the training courses for the third time as part of its Certified Fiber Optics Boot Camp. There will be three courses offered in this boot camp.

The first course will be a Certified Fiber Optics Technician course to be held Dec. 11-13. The second will be a Certified Fiber Optics Specialist in Testing and Maintenance course that runs Dec. 13-14, and the third will be a Certified Fiber Optics Splicing Specialist course scheduled for Dec. 15.

At the end of the three courses, students will take a 100-question test to become certified in their respective fields.

Lucy Torman, coordinator of Corporate College at CF and creator of the boot camp, said the training has been beneficial for students.

“In April, we had eight students, and in the July classes, we had nine,” she said. “All the students have passed all three of their certifications.”

Torman said there’s a significant demand and interest from some of the local high school seniors who will be graduating this year. She said it’s a great opportunity for them to get their foot in the door in the fiber optics industry.

She also said the college’s relationship with CareerSource and the grant will help students take courses they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

“The grant will provide what they call the wheel of funding, which is mainly for the unemployed or under-served,” Torman said.

Aaron Czarnecki, who works for the Central Florida Electric Cooperative, said he has taken these courses and they’ve helped him in the field because he previously had no knowledge in this area.

“After taking the courses, I felt like I had a much better understanding of what I was doing and what I was working with,” he said.

Some of the most important things he learned from the courses was how to work with fiber safely, cleanly and efficiently, he said.

“If you are looking for a great career with a lot of opportunity, and are not afraid to try something new, I highly encourage you to take the courses and jump in,” Czarnecki said.

BDI Datalynk, a technology company based in Atlanta, will be administering the courses and certifying the students upon completion.

Tom Rauch, a Fiber Optics Association Master Instructor for BDI Datalynk, travels around the country teaching these courses. He said people should consider a career in the industry because there are many job opportunities.

“People should be inquiring about where they can get this training,” Rauch said. “There are a lot of people struggling for work, but there is work in the fiber optics industry on a daily basis.”

Before joining BDI Datalynk, Rauch said he worked for Verizon for 30 years and learned how important fiber and broadband are in people’s everyday lives.

When he teaches, he tries to emphasize how broadband impacts communities.

“This is how you make money in the 21st century,” Rauch said. “You get a job to work with technologies like fiber.”

For more information on the Certified Fiber Optics Boot Camp and to sign up for any of the courses, visit the College of Central Florida's website.

Hugh is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing