As this legislative session gets under way, Florida’s economy is strong, and there is good reason to believe our future is bright with a workforce increasingly ready to meet the needs of our employers. Job growth in the state was substantially better than the national average last year with the state adding nearly 500,000 jobs even in this time of pandemic.
Equally significant is that Florida businesses are more likely to find qualified in-state talent to fill their vacancies than just a few years ago, according to a recent Florida Council of 100 statewide survey. Updating the Council’s 2018 research, this survey of Florida businesses found that new hires are better prepared and trained to do their jobs today.
In 2018, almost half of Florida businesses reported needing to spend additional resources training or re-teaching skills that new hires should have already learned in school. Only a third of companies reported the same need for training in the most recent survey. Additionally, Florida employers are finding that the number of new hires proficient in technical skills associated with their jobs rose nearly 10 percentage points since 2018.
The progress Florida has shown in workforce development over the past few years may be relatively unheralded, but the effects can’t be overstated. By enacting policy reforms, Florida’s elected leaders are converting fragmented, multi-agency programs into a more equitable and integrated system rooted in performance rather than rhetoric. For example, within his first 100 days of office, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Executive Order 19-31 with the goal of making Florida No. 1 in the nation in workforce education by 2030. Last legislative session, House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson continued that effort, by championing legislation that ensures Florida’s training institutions efficiently produce graduates with the employability skills needed to thrive in the workforce — now and in the future.
House Bill 1507, the Reimagining Education and Career Help (REACH) Act, forged a groundbreaking alliance between the academic and business sectors, which will now complement each other’s efforts to link well-trained Floridians with jobs that will both drive the economy and lead to prosperous livelihoods. Among its many provisions, the REACH Act created two new programs, the Open Door Grant Program and the Moneyback Guarantee Program. While Open Door provides grants to state colleges and technical schools to cover much of the cost of providing short-term, high-demand vocational programs, Moneyback Guarantee requires such schools to refund the cost of tuition to students who are not able to find a job within 6 months of successful completion of such programs. The REACH Act also creates a first-of-its-kind Credentials Review Committee that will determine which training programs best serve the needs of Florida businesses and workers.
Similarly, Senate Bill 366 took revolutionary steps toward improving career and technical education in the state. The bill established, for the first time, specific employability skills that must be taught through Florida’s highly successful Ready to Work Program. Employers who have benefited over the years from the program’s 300,000 graduates, will now be ensured that their hires have proven abilities in areas such as professionalism, time management, communication, problem-solving, collaboration, resilience, digital literacy skills, and academic skills such as mathematics and reading. SB 366 also paved the way for more businesses to offer students work-based learning opportunities that often lead to good jobs and careers, especially for at-risk individuals.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Innovative initiatives such as these only underscore the fact that Florida’s economic prosperity has always been closely tied to the strength of its education system and skills of its emerging workforce. We in the business community recognize this and applaud the state’s commitment to providing us with highly skilled employees where, when, and how we need them. The Council of 100 looks forward to continuing to work with the Governor and legislative leaders during the upcoming Session to further provide good job opportunities for well-prepared Floridians.
Bob Ward is the president and CEO of the Florida Council of 100, a Tampa-based, private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of business leaders that seek to advance the economic growth and well-being of Florida, a member of Florida’s Talent Development Council and a member of Enterprise Florida, Inc.