Good Jobs for All Means Investing in Florida’s Workforce Colleges

Mark Wilson, Guest Columnist, Pensacola News Journal

As the president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, my job is to listen to the concerns and needs of Florida employers and then share them with legislators and our governor. One of the biggest concerns I hear is that employers have jobs to fill, yet they cannot find all the talent they need.

Quarter after quarter, results from the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Index Survey show finding qualified employees as the top priority for employers across Florida. Right now, right here in Florida, despite a near record low unemployment, we have 261,600 jobs looking for people, and 374,000 people looking for jobs.

Workforce colleges are part of the solution to closing the skills gap, and Floridians need the legislature to follow Governor Scott’s lead and fully invest in the Florida College System.

To help close the gap, higher education institutions and workforce colleges are converting learners into earners. Florida’s universities, research institutions and career academies are preparing students with higher education for the workforce of tomorrow. Meanwhile, workforce colleges are training students – many of whom are economically disadvantaged, working adults and first-generation-in college students – with skills that match Florida jobs.Between now and 2030, two million more jobs will be needed in Florida. In fact, by 2030, 60 percent of jobs will require a post-secondary degree or advanced training.

And innovation and disruptive technologies are increasing the need for stronger skills. Many of these new jobs will require a shift in the skills and competencies of Florida’s workforce.

Simply put, talent is quickly replacing the tax incentive as Florida’s best economic development tool. But with lawmakers threatening to limit access to Florida’s workforce colleges and to cut funding that helps best match student interests with the right job skill training, you might not think improving educational opportunities in Florida is a priority of everyone in the Florida Legislature.

Job creators need our state legislature to put the long-term needs of Florida ahead of short-term fixes, and properly invest in Florida’s College System. Florida’s 28 workforce colleges develop and expand programs and certifications that directly speak to the workforce employment gaps in their region and produce the training and skills necessary to fill the voids.

Limiting investments and placing arbitrary caps on the number of students who can enroll in a workforce college will stifle a region’s ability to grow its labor force and prevent it from being a viable option for companies to relocate and call Florida home.

Florida should continue to strategically align the higher education systems to prepare for Florida’s future growth. By empowering Florida’s workforce colleges to foster innovative programs and certifications for targeted skills development, we can ensure the workforce pipeline will remain strong.

If you’re reading this and you want your kids and grandkids to live and work in Florida, please call your state legislator and ask them to do the right thing and fully fund Florida’s workforce colleges.

Mark Wilson is the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at

Negative Signals from Florida Legislature Contribute to Slump in Job Numbers

Pensacola News Journal, March 19, 2017

Headlines across Florida are highlighting the strong private-sector jobs created in January. It’s true, January was a banner month for jobs with 51,000 new jobs added in Florida. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news turns to concern. That’s because brand new U.S. labor statistics show Florida created fewer jobs in 2016 than in 2015 – 60,800 private sector jobs fewer to be precise.  And, if Florida leaders aren’t careful, this may be just the beginning of a downward trend.

For more than a year, some in the Florida Legislature have been sending negative signals to businesses that Florida isn’t as interested in growing jobs and businesses as it once was. And just last week, 87 members of the Florida House voted to eliminate two dozen of Florida’s targeted and proven economic development programs.

Florida has advantages, however, we also have a major lawsuit abuse problem, we’re the only state that taxes small business rent, and our unfunded pensions cost eight times what we invest in economic development. The point is that until Florida’s Republican led legislature puts jobs and families first, now is the worst possible time to send signals that our legislature doesn’t care about Florida’s competitiveness.  Taking economic development strategies that work off the table is short sighted and, without question, damages Florida’s ability to continue to lead the nation in job creation, particularly for small businesses who create most of the new jobs.

If Florida could compete on its sunshine-soaked beaches and current lack of personal income tax alone, our state would forever win. But the fact is, our competitors aren’t giving up these important economic development tools anytime soon. Our legislature should be making Florida more competitive, not eliminating job creation tools.

So while some in the legislature have turned their back on job creation, and are signaling to the rest of the nation that we’re not interested in their high-wage jobs, the Florida Chamber of Commerce isn’t giving up. We’ll keep fighting for jobs that support our families and Florida’s economy.

Before any serious discussion about taking economic development tools off the table, we should first make Florida more competitive by ending lawsuit abuse, stopping the Florida-only tax on rent for small businesses, ending unfunded liabilities on our pension system and more.

Mark Wilson is the president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Viewpoint: Keep Florida’s Workers’ Comp System Working

Job creators beware … even though your business’ workers’ compensation rates continue decreasing, several pending Florida Supreme court case outcomes could reverse that trend – potentially pushing your rates toward the near record levels of the early 2000’s.

As Florida’s leading advocate fighting to keep workers’ comp working, the potential impact of the high court’s ruling could threaten Florida’s improving business climate.

Consider the facts: for more than 10 years, the Florida Chamber has led efforts to help lower workers’ comp rates by almost 60 percent. In 2003, when Florida’s rates were the second highest in the country, a united business community joined with the Florida Chamber in successfully urging elected leaders to address cost drivers like outrageous, higher-than-the-national-average plaintiff lawyer fees.


Click here to see the complete article in the Pensacola News Journal.