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Workforce training leads to career success for adult students at Hillsborough Technical Colleges (HTC). Learn more about HTC programs at the Workforce Connections Career Training Fair on 4/7/18.

HTC Student Success Story

April 03, 2018 - Points of Pride

How old were you when you knew for sure what you wanted to be when you "grew up"?  Ten-years-old?  21-years-old?  Forty? 

Very few lucky people, like James "Buddy" Manning, are blessed at a young age to be absolutely sure about their career path. Buddy was going to become a firefighter. Not just because both his father and uncle were firefighters, and not just because he was able to actually see these men in action and to experience real work situations during his formative years and all the way through high school. These were definite advantages that validated his career choice more and more as he matured. 

Manning was homeschooled, partly because he had a learning disability which required focused instruction and very non-traditional instructional practices in order for him to grasp and retain difficult and complex subjects, and partly because his parents felt strongly that real-life situations and applications were integral to learning for both of their children (his sister was also homeschooled.) So a math lesson from a textbook meant much more if it was applied to a trip to the grocery store, where percentages, budgeting limits, and quality vs. quantity were concepts that came to life. In addition, visiting his father at the firehouse showed him what a strong work ethic looked like, a lesson well learned!

The same concept worked for Manning in his march toward a life in public service as a firefighter. When it was time to find the right school for the first part of his career training EMT (Emergency Medical Technicians) certification, Manning's mother, who attended Erwin Technical Center (now Erwin Technical College) in earlier years, started there, looking for small classes and hands-on training to accommodate the bookwork and technical language that her son would have to master. After calling Erwin, they were advised to speak to the Learey Technical College Program Advisor for EMT, Debbie Smith, who immediately began the process of getting Manning into the next EMT program. Once Manning completed the EMT program, he qualified to take the National Registry of EMTs (NREMT) exam to become Florida & NREMT certified Emergency Medical Technicians, which he successfully did on his first attempt.

Manning's next step was to enter and complete the Learey Fire Fighter I & II program which offered a comprehensive training that prepared him to take the state certification, again with a positive outcome. According to Smith, "Buddy was very shy in our first meeting when he disclosed he had learning difficulties but he was very determined to see his dream of being a fire fighter become a reality. EMT is a rigorous program academically and it is a pre-requisite for the Fire Academy. Buddy worked very hard and passed both EMT and the Fire Fighter Academy in partnership with Tampa Fire Rescue." 

Manning was hired by Hillsborough County Fire Rescue (HCFR) in January 2018 and after a five-week orientation process of extensive training to further his knowledge of firefighting the "HCFR way", he began working a regular shift in March 2018, and he is now, as he puts it, "living the dream I have always envisioned." 

There were many people who helped Manning pursue his career pathway, and he considers them valued mentors. For example, he explains that, "Cindy Wells, one of my EMT instructors, recognized my disability and adapted her instructional methods to make me successful."  During his training in the Fire Fighter program, he saw that his instructors treated each other like brothers, and in turn, they helped the students get through each phase of training, which in turn resulted in the students having more successful outcomes in terms of program completion and passing certifications.  

As far as Manning's future plans, he hopes to "one day be a great husband and father, to spend lots of time with my family, stay in the local area, and to mold myself with HCFR values." His professional goals include earning his Fire Medic (also known as Paramedic) credential, becoming a Driver/Engineer, and maybe even Captain one day." He loves what he is doing, and says, "The values of being a fire fighter, which include duty, honor, courage and brotherhood, are what motivate me each and every day. With the training I received through HTC, I am able to be the calm in other people's storm."

If you are not like Manning, and you are not sure just yet what your career passion is, then choosing a career can be a little overwhelming. Hillsborough County Public Schools operates four technical colleges (Aparicio-Levy, Brewster, Erwin and Learey) that offer 37 postsecondary certificate programs that not only prepare students for employment in health careers, business marketing, industrial education and public service, but assist adults with obtaining life skills, credentials, and habits that are critical for success in life.  Financial aid is available for those who qualify, and costs are low for HTC programs. 

Find out more about the HTC programs by attending the Workforce Connections Career Training Fair and HTC Open House on Saturday, April 7, 2018 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on the Erwin campus, located at 2010 E. Hillsborough Ave, Tampa, FL  33610.  By taking just a few minutes of time to check out the Fair, you may find YOUR career in a year! 

For more information about HTC programs, go to  To find out more about the Workforce Connections Career Training Fair and HTC Open House, hosted by Board Vice Chair Tamara Shamburger, call (813) 231-1907 or visit

View the Flickr album below this story to see photos of many of the amazing programs offered through HTC, including Firefighter Manning's journey to his challenging and fulfilling new job.

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