MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Manatee Technical College is training future electricians but they can’t finish classes and start working fast enough for Don Ellerbee.

He says, “We’re begging for them to be honest. Please come to work.”


Ellerbee is co-owner of Arctic Air Services. “Probably a 20% loss of work I know I’m turning down don’t’ have the local manpower to do it,” says Ellerbee.

They do plumbing and electrical work too.

Ellerbee adds, “We’re behind schedule on most of our jobs. We need to pick up more qualified people.”

Two-thirds of contractors like Ellerbee say they are having a hard time finding skilled craft workers.

“I don’t know if it’s stigmatism of blue collar worker guys think it’s not a glory job. They need to get over that… good amount of money to make,” says Ellerbee.

That’s where Manatee Technical College steps in.

MTC is offering free tuition to 30 students for an express 3 month long class in electrical or plumbing entry level job certification.

“I’m a hard worker great attitude,” says 33-year-old Samson Snyder is one of more than 175 potential students who’ve applied for the 15-hundred dollar course.

Snyder says, “It’s a great field to be in people out there making a lot of money.”

Starting pay 10-13 dollars an hour and after 10 years, Ellerbee says one can earn close to 30 dollars an hour plus overtime.

The school wants to offer the course every 3 months but needs businesses to sponsor students. Ellerbee says the longer this shortage of skilled workers last the more customers will have to wait and work quality may suffer. He says, “Eventually the work will get done gonna take longer to get it done than it is right now. Customers have to be more patient? They are.”

Manatee Technical College has found sponsors for 10 more students but that still leaves around 130 without sponsors. The program is open to all in the Bay area.

School staff will hand select students based on their application. Classes begin August 7.