Florida’s 1.5 Million Veterans Key to a Competitive Workforce

By: Florida Chamber Foundation

Joe Marino, Executive Director, Veterans Florida

Everything about Florida is changing—our economy, our demographics, our brand, and our own politics.  Our markets are becoming more global, technology and innovation are sweeping through every industry, and our population is growing and becoming more diverse. Florida has the opportunity to take advantage of these changes and become the leading U.S. state in the 21st century—a place marked by global competitiveness, prosperity and high-paying jobs, and vibrant and sustainable communities.

One of the keys to our success and global competitiveness is a strong workforce. According to the Florida 2030 Blueprint, by 2030, we will be home to 26 million residents and will need more than 1.5 million new jobs. As we plan for the future, one of the Florida 2030 goals states that more than 80 percent of Florida’s workforce must have essential employability skills.

Florida’s veterans are a crucial part of our workforce. In our latest Florida Horizon, the Florida Chamber Foundation met with Joe Marino, Executive Director of Veterans Florida to discuss the future of Florida, workforce skills, business talent needs and more. Veterans Florida is a non-profit corporation created by the State of Florida to help veterans transition to civilian life and provides tools for veterans to take advantage of the benefits of living and working in the Sunshine State.

On how Veterans Florida is partnering with businesses around the state to help attract talented veterans:

“We have partnerships, both formal and informal, with the Florida Chamber and the Foundation, Enterprise Florida, CareerSource Florida, and many local EDCs that are around high density veteran population areas. These employers and these organizations understand the value that veterans bring so part of our mission is connecting them all.”

On how Veterans Florida training is a part of workforce development:

“We work with employers who want to hire veterans into high skilled positions. These positions typically pay higher wages and have longer careers and more successful careers. The kinds of employers we work with specifically – we will work with any employer – but the ones we can really help veterans move into are those that have skills where a veteran can easily transfer their skills – whether aerospace, manufacturing, logistics, communications and information technology – particularly cyber — those are the areas that we see the most movement from service into the civilian workforce.”

On the importance of partnerships:

“Everyone in the service has some level of exposure to dealing with the public and understanding rules and how to enforce them, and that comes in very well with law enforcement and understanding teamwork and how to work within that kind of structure and hierarchy.”

“We started a partnership with Citrus County thanks to Sheriff Prendergast who used to be the executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs and reached out to us saying we’ve got a very natural fit, let’s work together. We have been able to help them start placing veterans into law enforcement positions in a part of the state that is a great place to work and live.”

Why should businesses hire a veteran?

“Veterans are adaptable, veterans are quick to think, veterans can make decisions with little to no information. It sort of breaks a lot of the stereotypes that people think that veterans only follow orders and march in lock-step.”

“Veterans bring adaptability and all the sorts of things you really need in the modern workforce and the modern economy.”

Why should veterans come to Florida?

“We tell veterans and their families about the quality of life here. The low taxes – because Florida doesn’t have an income tax, we don’t tax military retirement which is a huge issue for veterans who are transitioning out of service. We tell them about the great educational facilities and resources here. Every state college and university has a veteran’s resource center. And when it comes to workforce, if they decide to go to college or they decide to transition straight into a career, you’re going to find those transferable careers in logistics, aerospace, engineering, information technology that they’ve been working on the military already.”