By Claudia Zequeira
For Mark Hughes, administrative manager, continuing and professional education, working with his hands has been a constant in life. As a child, his grandfather passed on a love of woodworking. Later, that love would translate into a successful career in trades, which ranged from repairing weapons while in the United States Army, operating underground heavy equipment as a coal miner and later working as a firefighter and EMT, both in West Virginia.
“When I left the Army, I worked as an underground coal miner for six years in West Virginia. I was part of the Southern Pocahontas Mine Rescue Team, and I spent 13 years as a firefighter. I guess it’s safe to say I enjoyed the adrenaline rush as a young man,” said Mark.
After moving to Florida, and with numerous industry certifications under his belt, Mark began working in construction, a job that eventually led him to Valencia, where his expertise did not go unnoticed.
Mark was hired in 2015 as a lead instructor in Valencia’s Construction and Maintenance program, one of a slew of Accelerated Skills Training (AST) programs the College has created in recent years. Since then, much has happened. Not only did he earn a promotion and move into his current role, but he has also developed programs for the College, including Heavy Equipment Operator and Electrical Power Line Technician, both of which were built from scratch and of which he is exceedingly proud.
“These two programs took a lot of work from my team, my supervisors and our industry partners to come to fruition,” said Mark. “It’s not every day you see students operating a bulldozer or climbing power poles on a college campus.”
Most recently, Mark traveled to the Bahamas to train and certify some of the trainers of the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute. In the future, he hopes some of the institute’s students can begin their training there and complete it at Valencia.
Mark can be seen here in Freeport, Bahamas, helping train trainers of the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute.
His supervisor, Christina Foreman, managing director, professional and continuing education, agrees Mark’s passion for the construction industry “shines through in his daily work and excites others about opportunities within skill trades.” Christina added that Mark has been “a great addition to the Continuing Ed team. His ability to collaborate and bring innovative ideas forward has been a tremendous help in the creation and delivery of [AST] training programs for the College.”
Part of Mark’s current job responsibilities also includes checking on instructors to make sure they have what they need to perform their classroom functions, talking to industry partners, studying industry trends to meet market demand for new skills and looking at new technologies being used in the five programs he oversees and which fall under the Construction and Maintenance umbrella: Apartment Maintenance Technician, Carpentry, Core Construction, Electrical Powerline Technician and Heavy Equipment Operator.
He added that part of his role is also to “help provide in-demand training for the construction industry as well as upskilling unemployed and underemployed individuals so they can have a career with a family-sustaining wage.”
Valencia, he said, is a perfect place to pursue a career because the College is “willing to do what it takes to better our community. We have had the support from our senior leadership team as well as the Board of Trustees to identify the needs in Orange and Osceola Counties and develop programs for everyone to have an opportunity to learn at the College. Valencia has made it possible to receive higher education even if a degree is not something the student is seeking.”
Mark also said he enjoys working here because of the people he’s met.
“They are more like family than coworkers,” he said. “But I also love the mission we have been tasked with: we get to change students’ lives for the better and open doors to opportunities that some of our students’ never thought were possible.”
In his free time, Mark, who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business, loves to do woodworking, golfing and offshore fishing. And, he still likes to step into the classroom on occasion and teach students.
“When I took the job I said ‘I appreciate the promotion but at the end of the day, I want to keep a close relationship with my students,” he said. “I don’t just want to be an office person.”
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s Values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for one year or more? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.