1. Business

Business, education leaders grapple with ways to make job market more accessible

Published Jan. 17, 2014

Local business and education leaders grappled this week with a labor market that's still too complicated for job seekers to navigate and still ill-equipped to match workers with employers' needs.

As jobless rates continue to shrink, executives lament how finding talented people, critical for success, now takes longer than ever. High school and college officials say they are challenged to keep their programs updated on ever-changing skill sets their students will need both to find work and build rewarding careers.

Both business and school representatives called for a better clearinghouse to link job hunters with providers.

Here is the sobering reality, one school official explained.

"Kids know about five jobs," said Scott Brooks, director of technical and adult education for Hillsborough County schools. "A football player. A basketball player. A rapper. A vet. And a doctor. They do not know what is out there."

Here are my five takeaways from the meeting called to assess the state of the region's workforce. It was sponsored by the workforce boards in Hills­borough and Pinellas counties and emceed by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

1. Several leaders emphasized the need for Tampa Bay to better tell "its story" — why it's a worthy and a unique place to live — to become more visible to distant businesses and talented people.

2. Leaders of area technology firms stressed the growing resources needed to find and keep top talent. "There's a lack of people to drive innovation," said Bob Dutkowsky, chief executive of Tech Data Corp., the giant Clearwater distributor that sells $100 million worth of technology products daily in 100 countries. "It's a steel cage death match over talent," he said, where Tech Data must hire 1,500 people annually just to match its turnover.

At Tampa tech service firm Tribridge, where jobs average $95,000, CEO Tony DiBenedetto said the unemployment rate is "zero" for the people he looks to hire. He steals workers from other firms, which drives up everybody's costs.

3. A goal at the University of South Florida is for every student to gain international experience by studying or pursuing a business internship abroad, said USF president Judy Genshaft. That kind of broadening can help young people get ahead.

4. What if Tampa Bay surveyed the skills most in need by a thousand small area businesses, then worked with area schools to train people accordingly, suggested Tribridge's DiBenedetto. "If we do not train the next generation, we will fall behind," he warned

5. Young people are not the only ones unaware of today's opportunities. "Adults trying to get back into the workforce do not realize the range of potential work in the market," said St. Petersburg College president Bill Law. To help, SPC will revamp and speed up its degree or skills training programs. Many adults lack the time for traditional education, Law said, especially when trying to pay the rent.

Want an improved job market? Keep business and education talking to each other.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at


  1. A company called Flock Safety is selling automatic license plate readers to neighborhood associations to cut down on crime, and Tampa neighborhood Paddock Oaks is one of their customers. Pictured is a Flock camera on Paddock Oaks Dr. | [Luis Santana | Times] LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Atlanta-based Flock Safety has provided 14 area communities with high-speed, high-definition cameras for surveillance.
  2. An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft approaches Miami International Airport for landing in March. Bloomberg
    The 60-year-old veteran airline employee told investigators he was upset that union contract negotiations had stalled.
  3. Lilly Beth Rodriguez, left, Laura Robertson and Linda Lamont work on a Habitat for Humanity house in north Pasco. [Times (2013)]
    The increase is expected to happen in the first half of next year. CEO hopes other nonprofits follow suit.
  4. The number of single-family homes sold in the Tampa Bay area during August rose 2.8 percent when compared with the same month last year, according to a monthly report from Florida Realtors. (Times file photo)
    The midpoint price in the bay area rose to $250,000, which is still lower than the state and national median prices.
  5. The Aldi store located on 1551 34th St N, St. Petersburg, Florida in 2018, features its updated layout. JONES, OCTAVIO   |  Tampa Bay Times
    The store will re-open after renovations on Thursday, Sept. 26
  6. Jessica LaBouve, a penetration tester for cybersecurity company A-LIGN, poses for a portrait in the A-LIGN office on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019 in Tampa. Companies hire A-LIGN to figure out where their digital security weak spots are, and LaBouve is one of the "benevolent hackers" that finds them. ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Jessica LaBouve of A-LIGN works with companies to make their applications and platforms more secure.
  7. Stephen A. Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year. MARKUS SCHREIBER  |  AP
    The billionaire also talks trade with China in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.
  8. The economies of Canada and Florida go together like, well, palm fronds and maple leaves, as seen outside the Sweetwater RV Resort in Zephyrhills. (Times file photo) KATE CALDWELL  |  Tampa Bay Times
    To qualify under the proposed Canadian Snowbirds Act, visitors would have to be older than 50 and would have to own or rent a home here.
  9. Tampa investor and owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning Jeff Vinik, right, speaks about his investments in the video game industry at the eSports Summit Wednesday in Tampa as Matt Samost, Vice President of New Ventures for Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment looks on. LUIS SANTANA   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A summit at USF brought together major players and explored the possibility of an esports arena.
  10. Neeld-Gordon Garden Center, open at this location since 1925, is closing on Sept. 28. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    The development of Pinellas County and the arrival of the big box stores helped hasten the store’s demise.