Ag Commissioner Putnam: 'We need to make workforce development a priority'
Although Republican Gov. Rick Scott has made jobs and business incentives a staple of his administration, a statewide official who might seek to replace him in next year’s election says Florida needs to do a better job of making sure its residents are actually qualified to fill in-demand jobs and be hired by the companies that move here.
“The talent pipeline is not in place,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told reporters Tuesday. “The worst of all worlds is for us to recruit contracts or recruit businesses to Florida and not be able to staff the pipeline to meet their talent needs.”
Putnam offered two examples of businesses that are struggling to hire locally in Florida because of the lackluster talent pool: an aircraft refurbishment facility in Lake City that needs to hire several hundred people and a shipbuilder in Panama City that has a contract to build a new U.S. Coast Guard patrol cutter.
“We need to make workforce development a priority; we need to make our state colleges a priority,” Putnam said. “We talk a lot about getting our kids ‘college and career ready,’ and we have made college-ready students a priority but the gap still exists for making them career-ready — for filling those workforce development needs.”
Putnam also said Florida leaders need to do a better job attracting young families to Florida so they can spend their lives here — not simply move here as retirees. He said Florida “needs to be more” than “this cherry on top of a successful life built and created some place else.”
“Governing in Florida requires an extra obligation to keep Florida Florida,” Putnam said, adding that Florida “needs to be the kind of place that attracts people four decades sooner to our state so they raise their families here, and they start their families here, and they grow those businesses here — because that’s a very different emotional investment in the long-term good of Florida.
“When we have that, we have the type of balance and the type of stewardship and the type of long-term view of the good of the state of Florida that I think we all seek,” he said.
Putnam, a Republican, is widely expected to run for governor next year. (Scott is term-limited.) Asked when he might make a decision on the campaign, Putnam said he’s “entirely focused” on his priorities for his department and “there’ll be plenty of time to focus on ’18 after the [legislative] session.”
Other potential Republican candidates for governor include House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’Lakes and Senate budget chairman Jack Latvala of Clearwater.
Among Democrats, likely candidates are former Tallahassee congresswoman Gwen Graham, Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.