Marie Selby Botanical Garden Logo

Press Room
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Selby Gardens Helps Train Local Residents for Good Jobs via Master Plan Project


Selby Gardens Facilities Coordinator Oliver McNeal and Senior Director of Facilities and Security Mark Elliott. McNeal was hired full-time by Selby Gardens while he was enrolled in the CareerEdge training class for the electrical trade.

Eighteen community members have graduated from tuition-free training for in-demand local jobs in the construction trades thanks to donors to the campaign for the Master Plan at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus.

With an investment of $100,000 from the campaign for its Master Plan, Selby Gardens supported two “fast track” skills-training classes offered by CareerEdge, the workforce development initiative of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. Most of the 18 participants had received job offers before they completed the training—including one who now works full-time for Selby Gardens.

“Our Master Plan is estimated to have an economic impact in our region of more than $78 million,” said Jennifer O. Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens. “Investing in this innovative workforce training partnership with CareerEdge and the Sarasota Chamber is keeping more of that impact and its long-term benefits here in the Sarasota community. It’s a model that could be replicated at other projects in our region to ensure that more of the jobs they create are filled by local citizens.”

The training classes were facilitated by CareerEdge through its “Bridges to Careers Program.” Training was provided in a compressed timeframe and during evening hours, so participants could continue to earn a wage during the day. The students also received training in life and career skills and employability. A unique feature of the Selby Gardens-funded classes was the opportunity for students to be considered for employment by subcontractors working on the Master Plan project site for construction management firm Willis A. Smith Construction.

Ten local residents graduated from a CareerEdge training class in the electrical trade funded by the campaign for Selby Gardens’ Master Plan.

The most recent fast-track class focused on the electrical trade. The training was customized to meet the current needs of local employers, and all 10 graduates earned their Level 1 Electrical Apprenticeship. One future electrician from the class, Oliver McNeal, began working for Selby Gardens’ Facilities team while he was still participating in the training. McNeal is now a full-time facilities coordinator at the Gardens as well as a Level 1 Electrical Apprentice.

“These individuals worked incredibly hard to learn new skills that prepared them to enter an industry with tremendous potential,” said Dan Sidler, Vice President of CareerEdge & Economic Development at the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. “We are excited to cheer them on as they continue their local career journey.”

In the previous class, eight area residents successfully completed training in core construction skills. Two graduates from that class were immediately hired by a subcontractor working on the project site.