“We studied the Florida 2030 projections and know the challenges that our region faces in filling [the 6,000 new jobs Escambia County needs by 2030] and we absolutely believe that this type of internship program would be beneficial to our members. With the number of jobs that need to be filled, we need to find all sorts of candidates, and this type of internship program would be very important in trying to find those that are looking to fill these jobs,” said TODD THOMSON, Greater Pensacola Chamber Vice President of Public Affairs
The latest data available indicates an unemployment rate of 18.1 percent among Floridians with disabilities, nearly three times Florida’s overall unemployment rate. Smaller counties in Florida are not exempt from the problem either. Escambia County’s overall unemployment rate is holding at the same 6.3 percent as the state as a whole, but the county’s unemployment rate for disabled individuals is nearing the state average at an estimated 14.6 percent.
Todd Thomson, Vice President of Public Affairs at the Greater Escambia Chamber of Commerce, said his Chamber is looking to internship programs targeted at disabled job-seekers to help put a dent in those numbers and help the broader Escambia business community too.
“I think it’s an issue that’s not just important to our chamber, but I believe it’s an issue that’s important to the entire business community,” Thomson said. “That makes it even more important for us to provide opportunities for individuals who are looking for work and to educate businesses about these opportunities this [internship program] provides, and to try to bring that 14.6 unemployment rate down.”
Getting quantifiable results are important when determining the efficacy of the internship program, Thomson said, and direct feedback from participating businesses and organizations is perhaps the best way to tell how well the program is working.
“Surveys are one way we can measure the success…getting feedback from our partners and the other stakeholders who are involved with this process,” he said. “I think it’s just getting that data and feedback from the community to make sure we’re doing the right thing and making sure that these programs are successful.”
The Greater Pensacola Chamber has supported the Florida Chamber since 1936 and remains one of the Florida Chamber’s staunchest advocates in the Panhandle. Though Thomson is not a Florida Chamber board member, he and the rest of the Greater Pensacola Chamber have been an instrumental part of assisting the Florida Chamber’s efforts to fix the workers’ compensation issue facing state lawmakers in the upcoming Legislative Session. He said taking on workers’ comp-related problems is crucial for Escambia County and Florida as a whole.
“We’re looking at a number of important issues for the business community over here for 2017,” Thomson said. “First and foremost we’re focused on the workers compensation issue that they’ll be addressing in Tallahassee. This issue has a bottom-line impact on our local businesses and hopefully something can be done on the legislative level to fix that.
We’ll also be focusing locally on our…governments to make sure we have a good playing field for our businesses here. We feel pretty good about the way things are going here in Escambia County but we want to make sure that continues.”