TAMPA — To compete with the Nashvilles and Austins for jobs and growth, economic development officials say the Tampa Bay area needs a bigger, better talent pipeline.
So the nonprofit Tampa Bay Partnership is launching an effort to get businesses to provide local educators and others with more detailed and timely information about precisely what kind of applicants they need, and what training, degrees and certifications those candidates need to have.
The initiative, known as Tampa Bay Works, is being launched Tuesday with a request for businesses to sign up for a talent pipeline management model developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. A few keys to the program are that it's regional, that it will be driven by employers with acute workforce needs and that it will measure results so that both employers and educators come away with useful data.
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Tampa Bay Works plans to select two groups of businesses by the end of February. They could come from the same industry or from different industries that happen to need employees with similar kinds of training or experience.
"What we're looking for" are employers "having a really major challenge in the years ahead, either through high growth, through high retirement or through a lack of qualified people coming in for the existing jobs that they have," Tampa Bay Partnership president and CEO Rick Homans said Monday. Businesses interested in participating can find the request for information by going to tampabayworks.org.
Over the next five years, the partnership projects local employers will need to fill 850,000 job openings — including 78,000 new jobs. Along with three larger trends — low unemployment, the rapid digitization of jobs and a workforce where 23 percent of workers will reach retirement age over the coming decade — the bay area faces some particular challenges:
• Only 30 percent of local high school students earn an associate's or bachelor's degree, and there's little in place to help the other 70 percent become career-ready and find a clear pathway to a high-demand career. This, the partnership says, likely contributes to the bay area's higher-than-average percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who are not in school and are not employed.
• The bay area has pockets of underutilized talent, including workers with full-time jobs who still remain in poverty. These workers could seek better jobs if they had access to skills programs or retraining.
• There's a mismatch between what college students are studying and the demand for graduates in certain fields, including finance, education and training, information technology, marketing, architecture, construction andmanufacturing. Moreover, the bay area lacks a highly accessible, centralized resource for exploring careers and labor market information across the region. Instead, the bay area's existing workforce development efforts tend to be fragmented along county lines.
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Many of these deficiencies have been spotlighted in the partnership's regional competitiveness reports, which said the bay area lagged behind many competing metro areas in developing its own skilled labor force.
Tampa Bay Works will be an outgrowth of a two-year project that the partnership is supporting with a $300,000 grant from JP Morgan & Chase. In 2018, their research took them to Houston, where business and economic development leaders have begun using a similar model to improve matches between job seekers and employers.
"Most important," Homans said, is to have groups of employers "facing a serious challenge so that they're motivated to sit around a table together, to actually trust each other and to share information with each other. These are likely to be competitors, and that's a threshold they're going to have to cross in order for this to be successful. The only way they'll cross it is if they have a high level of motivation in terms of having a big problem that they're trying to fix and they see this as a possible way to fix it."