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Guest opinion: Future of Work Florida: Championing importance of work, value of skilled trades

Florida has a workforce crisis and it’s impacting Florida’s employers and job seekers in dramatic and negative ways, and yet it’s an opportunity business leaders should leverage.

Pre-COVID, despite Florida creating 1 in every 11 new U.S. jobs (2015-2020), the number one concern among Florida’s job creators was the inability to find quality, and qualified, talent to fill open jobs.

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, and with 493,216 open jobs and only 466,000 unemployed persons, Florida has more open jobs than people actively looking for work. In other words, the situation has gone from bad to worse.

Big picture, Florida needs to create 1.63 million net new jobs by 2030 to prepare for the 4 million more residents that will call Florida home at a time when the types of occupations that are, and will be, in demand are experiencing significant shortages of skilled workers. The future of work is the number one issue of our time and together we are solving it.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2021 Florida Workforce Needs Skills Report highlighted Florida has an oversupply of many skills and a significant undersupply of several in-demand occupations. This is largely due to an awareness gap and Future of Work Florida seeks to close that gap which will be a competitive advantage for Florida.

It is more important than ever for Florida’s businesses and education partners to unite to ensure the right things happen to advance the hard and soft skills needed to close workforce skills gaps and secure Florida’s future talent. Work matters. Work ethic matters; and skills matter. We must champion the value of work, create complete awareness of career possibilities and pathways, and fundamentally change the game when it comes to the future of talent in Florida. For people who want to work, Florida is the best place on earth.

Sometimes, problems are so obvious that everyone thinks someone is solving them, but no one is actually accountable for implementing a solution. The Florida Chamber’s Future of Work initiative along with the Florida Department of Education’s Get There campaign solves an obvious problem in ways that our collective impact model is designed to solve.

Future of Work Florida is a vehicle to bring together Florida job creators, key industry leaders and partners to address the current talent crisis, creating awareness and interest in the careers of the future, the industries with growth potential, while changing the narrative among parents, students, educators and others that a skilled trade or technical career is a valuable path for many Floridians to gain employment, experience, competitive pay and a path to prosperity.

Determining Floridians’ current sentiment and perceptions surrounding key trade industries in terms of career opportunities, working environment, benefits, salary potential, etc. will help Florida better understand the marketplace and move the needle in rebranding and reimagining the skilled trades and the possibility for viable and vibrant careers for Florida’s current and future workforce.

For example, Collier County needs to create 44,032 net new jobs by 2030. Despite this, Collier County has more jobs now than it did pre-COVID, and the only thing holding it back is qualified people. Through our Future of Work Florida Initiative, the Florida Chamber is working with local partners, including the Greater Naples Chamber, to ensure Florida’s talent aligns with the work needs.

To address the workforce challenge, Michael Dalby at the Greater Naples Chamber is leading a program connecting employers to work-based learning opportunities for high school and post-secondary students to gain exposure to local career opportunities, and linking employers to training providers — building talent pipelines, ensuring the training offered is up-to-date and valued, and assisting nonprofits and educational entities with relationships to employers to support and provide guidance to career readiness programming.

The Florida Chamber and our network of partners, including the Florida Department of Education and the Get There campaign, CareerSource Florida, Ready to Work Florida (addressing soft skills), local Chambers, economic development councils, state colleges, technical colleges, public universities and many others are uniting to tie it all together and have Florida lead the way in creating America’s best workforce.

Mark Wilson is President & CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.


*Originally Published with Naples Daily News.

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