Upper Keys college facility enters construction phase

COFK rendering: An architectural drawing of the new Upper Keys Center of the College of the Florida Keys. CONTRIBUTED

With a new facility on the way, the College of the Florida Keys’ programs and apprenticeships are expanding in the Upper Keys.

Islamorada Village Council welcomed Jonathan Gueverra, college president, during its Aug. 20 virtual meeting to discuss construction of a new building at MM 106 in Key Largo and increased opportunities for people to get certified in trades. 

With the building underway, Gueverra said the new, Category 5 facility will be open and welcoming staff and students in August 2021. The $20 million received support with a $16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, as well as other public and private donations.

“Not one penny has come from the state,” Gueverra said. 

Once built, the facility will be able to accommodate not just teachers and students, but also emergency management officials in the event of a major storm. To accommodate emergency management officials, Gueverra said there will be showers, lockers and cots on the building’s second floor. 

“It will also be used as a small EOC (emergency operations center) in the event any part of the county needs to be able to use that,” he said. “On the back side of the building, we’re building in a pad to allow a large tanker to park there in the event our gas stations are obliterated again and they need to send trucks again to receive fuel.”

With the new building, the college will be able to expand programs in the Upper Keys that include nursing, emergency medical technician, marine environmental technology and public safety. Gueverra said they’re also expanding apprenticeship opportunities in construction and technologies in the Upper Keys thanks to a grant from the state Department of Economic Opportunity. Electrical, carpentry and HVAC are among the opportunities for students or those who are seeking a new career. 

This fall, 32 people have applied for apprenticeships on the electrical side, five in carpentry, one in plumbing and four in HVAC.

“We definitely would like to see more people in carpentry, plumbing and HVAC,” Gueverra said. Apprentices will earn a minimum of $10 an hour. In Key West, no employer is paying $10; they’re starting off much higher than that.”

Students going through the program will be nationally certified. While the goal is keep students in the Keys, Gueverra said students who receive certifications will have credentials should they have to leave.
Gueverra said the college is also in need of instructors for all the areas, electrical, plumbing, HVAC. Those interested are encouraged to apply at www.CFFK.edu.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.