St. Lucie County high school students visit a manufacturing facility during a “boot camp” event conducted by the Treasure Coast Manufacturers Association in conjunction with the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County. The program targets students interested in manufacturing careers. IRSC PHOTOS



The board of directors for the TCMA gather at CenterState Bank. In the front row, from left, are Tammy Roncaglione, Dana Apfelbaum and Candy Marlow; in the back row, from left, are Jarrod Trefelner, Jerry Jacques, Bill Wilcox, Brooks Price, Pete Tesch and Jim Turner.

In August 2016 a group of Treasure Coast manufacturers met to share ideas and find solutions to challenges facing the advanced manufacturing industry. These challenges ranged from building stronger partnerships with local governments, strengthening relationships with regional and state political leadership to the truly daunting issue of recruiting and developing a skilled labor force. Attracting more than 100 attendees, the kick-off meeting demonstrated strong interest in creating an organization that would provide a unified “voice” for the regional manufacturing industry.

Under the direction of Pete Tesch, the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County offered operational support for the new organization, while an enthusiastic and dedicated leadership team emerged from the regional manufacturing community. With operational support and a leadership team in place, the Treasure Coast Manufacturers Association (TCMA) was founded and launched.

“Our mission is to strengthen manufacturers’ economic competitiveness and promote the collective interests of manufacturing, distribution and wholesale trading companies in the Treasure Coast region,” said Jerry Jacques, TCMA president. “We will build strong partnerships and create awareness of the challenges facing our diverse industry, with the ultimate goal of educating leaders and lawmakers about the value and economic impetus that manufacturing brings. As awareness grows, partnerships will empower stakeholders and help build business-friendly climates and policies that support manufacturers and sustain economic growth.”

A 2017 Treasure Coast Skills Gap Study, conducted by the St. Lucie County EDC, indicated that regional manufacturing was transitioning from heavily manual jobs to an integration of technology with employers seeking a more skilled workforce. Blueprint reading, industry math, critical thinking and problem-solving skills topped the list of desired skill sets.

Armed with information from the skills gap study, the TCMA built a two-part strategy. The organization’s plan included an advocacy campaign to heighten awareness within the marketplace regarding the advanced manufacturing community and the creation of a recruitment and training program for the region’s new advanced manufacturing workforce.

The advocacy portion of the plan began by launching an innovative promotional program to update high school counselors on Treasure Coast manufacturing careers. High school guidance counselors from around the region were provided tours of regional manufacturing facilities. The tours, along with presentations provided by manufacturing owners and managers, updated counselors about increases in starting salaries, training and career path development, and expanding career opportunities.

An annual meeting for members of TCMA was held at the Pelican Yacht Club in Fort Pierce.

TCMA Boot Camp participants tour the Pursuit Boat manufacturing facility located in northern St. Lucie County.

“One of the greatest achievements of TCMA has been developing a partnership with the school system, allowing our industry to reach younger students,” said Bill Wilcox, vice president of TCMA. “This innovative tour program provided students with a hands-on introduction to local manufacturing organizations and the types of careers available.”

Partnering with CareerSource Research Coast (CSRC), the Corporate and Community Training Institute (CCTI) at Indian River State College and the EDC of St. Lucie County, the TCMA developed the workforce training segment of the plan. A regional apprenticeship program was initiated, providing candidates with training in manufacturing skills. Coursework included: safety, quality control, production, maintenance, blueprint reading, industrial math, welding, etc. The apprenticeship program, offered through Indian River State College, provided the student with an opportunity to earn the nationally recognized Certified Production Technician (CPT) level of achievement. Students who complete the CPT program can articulate and leverage that experience and training as they pursue certification and degree programs at IRSC.

IRSC, the region’s primary and leading provider of certification and industrial arts education, has taken the lead role in modernizing workforce training through its initiative to design and construct the new Treasure Coast Advanced Manufacturing Center. This 55,000-square-foot facility, located on IRSC’s main campus, will immediately expand the college’s ability to produce degree, certificate and apprenticeship completers in high-demand industries. In addition to supporting hundreds of businesses in the IRSC service district, the TCAMC will be a nexus for growing, supporting and training students with an interest in high-skill careers.

“Manufacturing is firmly planted as an industry across Indian River State College’s service district, and it is thriving,” said Dr. Ed Massey, president of IRSC. “As our region’s great potential for manufacturing expansion is realized, strong collaboration among partners like IRSC, local schools, CareerSource and the TCMA will ensure the industry’s current and future training needs are met.”

One of the association’s more innovative recruitment programs was a boot camp developed for graduating high school seniors. This program featured a week-long training and manufacturing orientation course targeting graduating seniors who expressed interest in a manufacturing career. In 2018, 21 high school graduates completed the first Manufacturing Boot Camp through a partnership between the TCMA and the St. Lucie County EDC.

“The TCMA will continue to focus on the ‘hot button’ training and support issues by working with CareerSource and the CCTI at Indian River State College to provide apprentice and pre-apprentice programs as well as working with St. Lucie County schools to assist graduates with a career pathway into manufacturing,” said Tammy Roncaglione, TCMA treasurer. “Since its formation, the TCMA has continued to build effective partnerships and innovative programming to promote the manufacturing industry and career opportunities.”

As the Treasure Coast Manufacturers Association celebrates its third anniversary of operations, the mission remains: continue to stay together and do what works to support manufacturers and sustain economic growth. The work of the TCMA has proven to be an important component in promoting and advocating for this targeted sector.

Visit for more information.

Treasure Coast Business is a news service and magazine published in print, via e-newsletter and online at by Indian River Magazine Inc. For more information or to report news email [email protected]