The talent gap we face in Florida is not a new problem nor is it unique to our state.
According to the Florida Chamber, while more than 400,000 are looking for jobs, we have 232,000 jobs looking for people.
Florida’s employers and workforce development, economic development and education entities are collaborating to bridge that gap with a new focus on apprenticeships.
The National Office of Apprenticeship, within the U.S. Department of Labor, has set a goal of doubling and diversifying the number of apprenticeships by 2019. Florida is among 36 states and Guam recently selected to help make that big goal a reality through the ApprenticeshipUSA initiative.
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The responsibility tied to these grants is clear: Build partnerships across key industries and organizations to create a strong talent pipeline for businesses in vital industries such as advanced manufacturing and information technology.
Last month, I had the opportunity to talk with U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta about the importance of expanding apprenticeship opportunities during his visit with Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee. Florida is the third-largest state in the nation, with low unemployment – just 3.8 percent in September – and record job growth.
Yet we know we still have construction companies in need of skilled workers, hospitals in need of health care technicians and manufacturers in need of production technicians.
The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine data series found more than 46,000 health care openings in Florida in September. In the same month, we had more than 64,000 construction jobs open, 42,000 IT positions available and more than 9,000 manufacturing jobs open. Apprenticeships are a great way to get tomorrow’s talent ready for the demand we know is here – and constantly growing.
CareerSource Florida is integrating apprenticeships into our statewide sector strategies initiative. Sector strategies are a nationally recognized approach that bring together partners and stakeholders in industry, education and workforce development to align public resources that address the skills needs of critical industries.
Sector strategies, including apprenticeships, enable us to meet the talent demands of tomorrow and support state and local economic growth in a significant way. Research shows sector strategies strengthen the participating businesses, the industries involved and the workforce as a whole by shifting workforce development from a supply-driven to a demand-driven approach.
Our work on the State Apprenticeship Expansion grant already has resulted in system-wide partnerships, and the engagement of nearly 100 industry and expert volunteers who are identifying ways to expand apprenticeships. Each of Florida’s lead organizations – CareerSource Florida, the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Department of Education – has designated a project director to focus on this important work.
We believe this renewed focus and the fresh insights of industry, education and workforce experts will further strengthen and diversify Florida’s already robust economy. The collaboration and commitment to build and grow strong apprenticeship programs throughout our state is a testament to Florida’s leadership on a critical national issue.
Michelle Dennard is president and CEO of CareerSource Florida.