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Focus on Manatee: It’s National Workforce Development Month. Here’s how you can take part

As students settle into classrooms across our region, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for a fall season packed with workforce initiatives.

Our focus aligns with the importance the U.S. Senate places on workforce development in declaring September as National Workforce Development Month.

The bipartisan resolution highlights the growing skills gap and recognizes the importance of investing in workforce development initiatives to ensure our economic competitiveness in the 21st century economy.

We hear from businesses time and time again that their employees are their most valuable asset. Recruitment and retention require a big investment of time, money, and deliberate strategies that allow businesses to grow and succeed.

Chamber initiatives are focused on current and future workforce development. A robust pipeline of talent is critical to our success as a our region.

This month, the Manatee Chamber will be introducing local students to Manatee County businesses through two job shadow opportunities.

On Wednesday, we are partnering with UnidosNow to match 20 students with local employers to give them a better feel for careers within their interest inventory.

Jacki Dezelski-mug.jpg
Jacki Dezelski is the president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

Then next week, we are once again partnering with USF Sarasota-Manatee to facilitate a one-day job shadow opportunity within their students’ chosen career fields.

Both of these job shadow initiatives are designed to help the students envision a successful career with Manatee County employers. The more connections we can make, the better for our long-term workforce pipeline.

The business leaders who participated in our spring job shadow program this year were amazed at the talent and skills their hosted students possessed. I believe the employers learned as much from their student shadows as the students did about their host companies.

On Sept. 25, we are hosting a panel discussion with local employers who have successfully hosted interns. It will be a great opportunity for companies that would like to consider hosting an intern for the first time — or for companies that would like to learn strategies to make their internships more likely to result in keeping their interns in our community.

Our panelists will include companies that have had great success in recruiting, hosting and permanently hiring interns.

In October, we will begin presenting our Big Bank Theory program at all six of our public high schools with senior classes. The program is designed to help elevate the financial literacy skills of our students at time when they will soon be stepping into much greater independence and responsibility.

We will need more than 200 volunteers to reach every high school senior through The Big Bank Theory program. With this many business volunteers, imagine the number of employers these students will be exposed to that they might otherwise not have encountered.

The students will complete the activity that shows them how important personal finance is to their future success and gives them a better understanding of how much their education affects their career — and salary — opportunities.

The Manatee Chamber will end the year facilitating a series of industry tours in partnership with the Bradenton Area EDC and the School District of Manatee County that will give high school students an inside look at businesses and careers in several targeted clusters (high skill trades, health care, manufacturing, etc.).

They will end their tour with a visit to Manatee Technical College to experience the programs offered at our award-winning technical college.

If you would like more information on any of these workforce development initiatives, I encourage you to reach out to the Manatee Chamber.

Nurturing workforce excellence across our region requires many partners and our community’s investment in our students, schools, colleges, and universities.

Jacki Dezelski is the president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and can be reached at or 941-748-3411.

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