Five Questions with Corporate College Director, Howard Drake: Raising the Profile of the Corporate College Professionally and Academically

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

In 2011, Howard Drake joined Polk State College as the Program Manager for the Engineering Technology Advanced Manufacturing (ETAM) Program, funded by a US Department of Labor grant. Now, five years later, he is the Director of the Polk State Corporate College, which focuses on meeting the training needs of employers in support of local economic growth.

Providing relevant, employer-customized, non-credit and credit training is key to the College’s success. Drake’s future goals are to raise the profile of the Polk State Corporate College among key stakeholders within business, community, and collegiate environments, and to enhance the connection between non-credit training programs and Polk State’s degree programs.

Drake’s passion for service is evident as he describes the continued growth of the Corporate College:

How do you describe the Polk State Corporate College to those who have not yet encountered its services?

The Corporate College provides training solutions for businesses in Polk County and beyond. Working with industry partners and local organizations, the College identifies specific needs and delivers customized training solutions for the incumbent workforce. In addition, through state and federal grant awards, the College provides entry-level training that better positions students for employment in the grant-targeted industries.

How does the Corporate College work? What kinds of training programs does it offer? Can individuals access its training or are programs mostly arranged through employers?

The Corporate College is comprised of entrepreneurial institutes that engage the various stakeholders through strategic collaborative discussions and focus groups for the purpose of identifying skills needed by the organizations. As a result, tailored training solutions are created for employers. A major thrust is to meld training initiatives with academic frameworks that lead toward articulated college credit, enabling program participants to gain greater long-term value for their efforts. The focus is to create an academic pathway, in addition to providing job-related skills and national certifications, for all students.

The Corporate College offers a wide array of training options depending on the workforce need. The Polk State Corporate College website at provides access to the current offerings.

While the Corporate College works primarily with employers, the grant-funded programs are intended to provide individuals with access to training solutions that prepare them to enter the workplace.

What motivated you to pursue the role of directing the Corporate College? What do you hope to achieve?

Great success has been achieved at the Corporate College since its inception. These success stories include individuals obtaining work after long periods of unemployment, employees enhancing their skills to yield greater pay and new responsibilities, and veterans gaining new skills to successfully transition to the workplace after their service. These types of outcomes are both beneficial to the community and personally inspiring.

The Corporate College’s mission is to constantly seek to create innovative programs that support the local business community. Some of the immediate goals are to:

  • Enhance current programs and develop future, targeted training solutions that are relevant, focused, and responsive.
  • Increase tracking of student success (e.g., as evidenced by industry certifications earned, job placements for the unemployed, and the number of advanced-skill training opportunities offered for the incumbent work force).
  • Promote pathways to academic degrees through the training courses provided.
  • Build relationships with academic partners that are replicable throughout the state.

Some of the Corporate College’s programs can be applied to college degrees. Which programs apply to what degrees? Are you working to expand the connection between the Corporate College and degree programs?

Presently, some of the industry training provided through the Corporate College can be applied as articulated college credit toward the Associate in Science (AS) in Engineering Technology degree. This degree has two specializations: Advanced Manufacturing, and Mechanical Design and Fabrication. The Certified Production Technician Program requires 140 hours of instruction, and when completed successfully, equates to fifteen credits (25%) of the AS degree. The 300-hour Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Program delivers nine articulated college credits through completion of the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) CNC Operator Level 1 Certificate.

The Corporate College is fortunate to have strong working relationships with corresponding academic departments. Working together provides tremendous dialogue and engagement to advance a shared goal of student success.

What do you consider the greatest Corporate College achievement of recent memory, and where do you hope the Corporate College stands in five years?

Completion of phase one of the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) is the single greatest achievement for the Corporate College. It was built with the largest private donation to a state college in Florida’s history. The facility provides an expansive footprint for many types of industry training. With the state-of-the art technology available at the facility, the Corporate College is positioned to deliver necessary training solutions for many stakeholders.

In the next five years, the Corporate College intends to:

  • Position itself as a statewide leader in workforce training.
  • Design and build multiple talent-development pathways to advance the current momentum generated by pre-employment and apprenticeship opportunities, including creation of a high school Manufacturing Career Academy.
  • Enhance the relationship between workforce and academia.
  • Build phase two of the ATC and provide additional training solutions.