Dr. Gary Vonk and Kimberly Lea, Presidents of Keiser University’s Flagship and West Palm Beach Campuses are among the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County’s (BDBPBC) first-ever council to connect businesses with K-20 educators.

In an unprecedented partnership between industry and education, the BDBPBC has created the Academic Leaders Council, a sweeping new initiative that joins businesses and schools to ensure that curricula prepare students for jobs and create a skilled workforce for the many companies that are flocking to Palm Beach County.

“We’re thankful for the additional opportunities this effort presents to work closely with businesses to ensure our curriculum is designed to provide students with the knowledge, understanding, and skills necessary for successful employment. Many thanks to Ms. Smallridge and her team for their vision and commitment to our students and to South Florida’s workforce,” said Vonk.

Recently launched by Kelly Smallridge, President  & CEO of the BDBPBC, the program unites the presidents of six Palm Beach County universities and the Palm Beach County School District Superintendent with officers of 17 Palm Beach County companies in the life sciences, aviation, aerospace, engineering, IT/communications and trades/manufacturing industries.

“As more companies are attracted to the economic and lifestyle advantages of moving to and expanding in Palm Beach County, we are pulling out all the stops to ensure that the hiring needs of business are met,” Smallridge said. “Our inaugural meeting focused on four industries – Life Sciences, Aviation/Aerospace/Engineering, IT/Telecommunications and the trades.  Future meetings will include Business and Financial Services, Logistics and Distribution, Manufacturing and Corporate Headquarters.  All of these sectors are expanding rapidly in Palm Beach County.” Additionally, many participants marveled that so many top-level academics and industry leaders convened in one room for this purpose.

 Other council members include:

  • Dr. Robert Avossa, Superintendent, Palm Beach County School District
  • Dr. William “Bill” Fleming, President, Palm Beach Atlantic University
  • Dr. George Hanbury, President  & CEO, Nova Southeastern University
  • Dr. John Kelly, President, Florida Atlantic University
  • Ava Parker, J.D., President, Palm Beach State College
  • Dr. Kevin Ross, President, Lynn University

Industry leaders at the launch included:

  • Aviation/Aerospace/Engineering : Catherine Haas Barre, President, Parametric Solutions, Inc.; Russell Moore, Operations Manager, Belcan Engineering Group, LLC; John Fischetti, General Manager, Sikorsky and Michael O’Neill, Site Manager, Pratt & Whitney.
  • Life Sciences and Healthcare:  Dr. Fred Sancilio, Founder and President, Sancilio & Company; John Swartz, Vice President, KRS Global Biotechnology;  Dr. Claudia Zylberberg, Founder & CEO, Akron Biotechnology, LLC and Dr. Adam Ibrahim, CEO, Horizon Pharma.
  • Information Technology and Telecommunications : Daniel Cane, President & CEO, Modernizing Medicine;  Jim Milton, CEO, Campus Management Corp.;  Lenny Chesal, Chief Evangelizer, Host.net; and Robert Missroon, VP – Finance, CFO, Document Storage Systems (DSS).
  • Trades/Construction: David Aiken, Director Commercial Development, Florida Region, US Operations, Cemex;  Michael Daley, President, Hi-Tech Roofing; Rick Seymour, CEO, Carpenter Electric;  Dale Hedrick, President, Hedrick Brothers Construction; Alan Poston, Vice President, Hardives, Inc. and Carol Bowen, VP Govt. Affairs,  Associated Builders and Contractors.

 The Academic Leaders Council is the first of its kind in Palm Beach County, and will focus on preserving and expanding intellectual capital in the county and ensuring that the curriculum taught in the classroom meets the needs of industries that are growing in the County.  The direct goals of the Council are to:

  • Create a formal connection between top leaders of academic institutions and industry leaders
  • Increase internship opportunities for all students
  • Review curricula to ensure better alignment with employer needs
  • Provide a platform for academic leaders to better understand the technology and innovation that is present in Palm Beach County