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Florida Jobs - A Call to Restructure Workforce Training


Outdated labor statistics, restrictions on training money and a lack of coordination are three hurdles in the way of creating new Florida jobs according to a policy report just released by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

The report, “Will Work for Change: Demand-Driven Workforce Solutions for Florida’s Future,” points out several problems with Florida’s workforce structure.

The report notes  there are are several federal job training programs, but that the funding is usually restricted and complicated rules deter businesses from participating. It also finds that the state workforce board has little power over Florida’s 24 local workforce boards.

Mark Pritchett, a senior vice president with Gulf Coast Community Foundation, adds that a lack of oversight and accountability is another problem with the local workforce boards.

“And a lot of times, the people on those workforce boards are people, they get money to do training, so that’s a conflict.” Pritchett said, “And so that all needs to be looked at.”

The end result, often, is workers being trained for jobs that are not there because the program is based on two-year-old labor statistics and out-of-touch local boards.

Career Edge, a pilot program in Sarasota, turned that workforce equation upside down Pritchett said.

Mireya Eavey, executive director of Career Edge, talks directly to employers to assess what skilled workers they need.

“You have to go out there and talk to the employers because a lot of what’s happening, they’re buying new equipment, their buying new capital, they’re expanding,” Eavey said. “Nobody knows about it unless you go and you work with them.”

Career Edge then seeks out donors or “investors” to fund specific worker training and contracts with local colleges and schools. In its first 15 months, Career Edge has trained and found jobs for more than 1,500 people.

Eavey said it’s also critical for local workforce boards to work together with economic development boards.

“You have to pay attention to economic development,” Eavey said. “You have to pay attention to what industries are doing where are they growing and where are they having challenges. You have to go address those.”

Another important element to their success – an independent firm assesses if the employers’ expectations were met and holds the program accountable. Eavey said the governor's office asked her to develop a plan to replicate the program in other parts of Florida.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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