Why Talent Matters: A Business Conversation with U.S. Education Secretary DeVos

By: Florida Chamber Foundation

On August 30, the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Talent and Education Caucus hosted U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for an important discussion on the Cradle to Career Continuum and the role businesses play in securing Florida’s future. She was impressed with what you have helped us achieve.

“Your success is built around the fact that you have been so collaborative,” SECRETARY BETSY DeVOS told business and education leaders today. “I don’t know of any other states that work as effectively as you all do…and it’s with good reason that Florida is a leader in approaches to solutions in education. Your focus on developing talent and meeting the needs of business and industry is exactly the place you need to be in looking forward.”

As part of the Florida 2030 research project, the Florida Chamber Foundation traveled to each of Florida’s 67 counties and heard from more than 10,000 Floridians like you as part of its Florida 2030 initiative. We asked them one question: what does Florida need to get right to succeed between now and 2030?

Across the board, we heard one message loud and clear: Florida businesses need the right talent.

Because of projected population growth, Florida will need to create 2 million net new jobs by 2030. According to the Florida Chamber Foundation’s recent Florida Jobs 2030 report, one third of Florida’s current workforce will be retired or nearing retirement by the end of the next decade, and more than half of today’s occupations will face some disruption. That means the graduating class of 2030 – today’s Kindergarteners – will need to be prepared for jobs and entire industries that may not yet exist.

When it comes to raising awareness of the importance of education, Florida’s business leaders are the driving force behind ensuring every student in Florida has an opportunity to succeed.

Business leaders answered the call in 1994, when we released the “No More Excuses” report that focused on educational accountability and helped move Florida from 48th in the nation to the top quartile in outcomes. They’ve answered the call again by joining the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Business Alliance for Early Learning – led and run entirely by business leaders who understand that supporting our learners from birth is key to future success. They contribute each year at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Learners to Earners Education Summit, where they share insights into the economic development impact a well-trained workforce has on our state. And, most recently, they are taking a lead on the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Prosperity Movement, which will focus on ways to create economic mobility for all Floridians.

Yet, while Florida has made great strides thanks in part to the leadership of businesses and the hard work of Florida’s teachers and students, there is still a long way to go.

  • 58 percent of our state’s 3rd graders read at or above grade level- which means 42 percent currently do not. And research tells us that students who are not reading at or above 3rd grade level by 3rd grade, may never catch up and have a higher risk of never graduating high school.
  • Florida’s 3rd grade reading and 4th grade math rankings are improving, but 4th grade reading and 8th grade math are declining.
  • Florida is graduating 80 percent of high school seniors, but that means we are failing 2 out of every 10 students.
  • Half of Florida’s future workforce is facing disruption, by technology, innovation and more.

She Asked For Feedback, Here is Your Chance

During today’s meeting, Secretary DeVos asked business and education leaders a few questions and now, we want to ask you:

  • What should the federal government be doing less of in terms of education?
  • Where does the federal government need to provide more assistance in terms of educational programs?
  • How have early learning initiatives focusing on children ages 0-5 worked in your community?

Click here to answer these questions and we will share them with Secretary DeVos and her team.

For those of you who have been a part of our efforts, thank you for your continued support. For those who are looking for ways to get involved, I encourage you to click here to sign up to join a caucus group.