Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

A Sweet Spot for Hiring Top Talent

Money magazine last year ranked Jacksonville as the seventh best U.S. city for job seekers, which is no surprise to Candace Moody, vice president of communications for CareerSource Northeast Florida.

With a median age of 39, three years younger than the rest of the state, Northeast Florida provides a younger demographic for prospective employers, with training opportunities throughout the region.

Besides the six colleges and universities in the seven-country Northeast Florida region, the area also draws graduates from the University of Florida and Florida State University.

Northeast Florida Labor Force
800,000+ People
39: Median Age

Jacksonville offers a bigger and more diverse business climate than those students can find in Gainesville or Tallahassee, so many of them gravitate to the Northeast region as they enter the workforce.

“Jacksonville’s a natural place for them to come and start their careers,” Moody says.

Of course, many new entrants into the labor force find their way to Northeast Florida for academic reasons before starting their careers.

Jacksonville University draws students from all 50 states and 51 foreign countries, and three-quarters of them stay in the region after graduation.

The private university offers unique programs such as marine science and aviation management, as well as a strong business school.

Jacksonville’s state university, the University of North Florida, was recognized last year by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine as one of 15 “diversity champions” among national colleges and universities.

Education Level of Job Candidates
Bachelor’s Degree 19.2% 17.1%
Master’s Degree 7.2% 5.3%
Doctorate 1.2% 0.8%

The University of North Florida continues to accumulate academic recognition, including a “best regional” university for the seventh consecutive year by U.S. News & World Report. Meanwhile, UNF’s Coggin College of Business has been recognized by The Princeton Review as one of the nation’s best business schools for 11 consecutive years.

UNF will have an entrepreneurship center located in downtown Jacksonville as soon as 2018.

The center will be a destination for anyone to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas. If there is potential, they will be given space at the center for six months to pursue the project.

Mark Dawkins, dean of the Coggin College of Business, is overseeing development. He looked at the top 50 most successful entrepreneur centers in the country for inspiration.

“When you look at entrepreneurship centers that are successful around the country, most have a university as part of that process,” said Dawkins.

Dawkins helped put together a task force including entrepreneurs from all five colleges at UNF. He wanted ideas from the college of arts, health, education and engineering as well as business.

UNF marketing students will be able to intern there for credit, and Dawkins also hopes non-marketing students who want entrepreneur experience will volunteer as well.

Dawkins wants the center to benefit not only UNF students, but the Jacksonville community as a whole.

“We are designing [the center] to be a living, learning lab for entrepreneurship,” says Dawkins. “It’s all about building a pipeline of entrepreneurs to benefit the city of Jacksonville.”

Northeast Florida is home to two state colleges: Florida State College at Jacksonville and St. Johns River State College. Both offer degree and training programs at a number of levels at locations throughout the region.

The largest, FSCJ, provides specific training for companies and important industries in Northeast Florida, based on input from local businesses.

“Our advisory boards are giving us direction on what they want to have,” says FSCJ Provost John Wall.

For example, FSCJ offers a bachelor’s degree in logistics to support the area’s burgeoning logistics industry. Students have opportunities to earn industry certifications to validate their expertise and advance their careers.

In partnership with corporations CSX and Georgia-Pacific, FSCJ offers an associate degree in engineering technology to train students in advanced manufacturing technology. The college is also working with local hospitals to train students for careers as registered respiratory therapists.

Besides providing opportunities for college students, FSCJ has a cybersecurity program in two Jacksonville high schools and has extended its advanced manufacturing program to students at Englewood High School.

Higher Education Enrollment
Florida State College at Jacksonville 37,751
University of North Florida 15,944
St. Johns River State College 7,765
Jacksonville University 4,060
Flagler College 2,501
Edward Waters College 945

The college works with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, a Jacksonville company that makes contact lenses, in the Englewood program. Students have the opportunity for paid internships at the company and can begin taking classes toward the degree in engineering technology while still in high school.

Johnson & Johnson sees the program not only potentially helping the company but also helping the community advance education in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields.

The program “is our approach to develop an industry-led education program, ultimately incentivizing local technology companies to invest in skilled talent from right here in our local community,” says Abe Alangadan, senior project portfolio manager for J&J Vision.

Also in Jacksonville, Saint Leo University offers traditional courses and online learning options at Mayport Naval Station and Oakleaf Town Center.

Fastest-Growing Industries in NE Florida
2016 - 2024
Ambulatory Health Care Services 29%
Building Construction 22%
Educational Services 20%
Securities/Investments 18%
Professional, Scientific, Technical 17%
Specialty Trade Contracts 17%
ISPs, Data Processing 16%
Health and Personal Care Stores 15%

While local corporations are partnering with colleges to train their future workforce, some are taking the training directly to younger students.

The SPARK (Science Program for the Advancement of Research Knowledge) pilot program lets high school students conduct research with Mayo Clinic.

One of the goals of the program is to help students submit a competitive science fair project, but it goes beyond that. Students are getting a unique hands-on experience, focusing on things like cancer and stem cell research.

“We’re providing them that platform that they need to take it to the next level,” says Sharon Collins, research program coordinator at Mayo.

“Hopefully these students will go on to medical school and come back to Mayo in our area as future researchers and scientists that can help cure and treat some of the diseases that we’re faced with.”

187+ Schools in Northeast Florida
have a proven track record of superior performance, earning “A” and “B” grades.

50+ Schools Offer 30+ Magnet Programs
ranging from culinary arts and Montessori to computer science and medical professions.

130+ Career Academies

Jacksonville-based VyStar Credit Union started a high school branch program a decade ago that allows student interns to run a bank branch right in their school.

The credit union had branches in 13 schools in six Northeast Florida counties last year, with 156 student interns in training to operate the branches.

Not only does the program train students for possible future employment in the credit union after graduation, the program also teaches students the ins and outs of personal finance to help them manage their money better as they move into adulthood.

Financial services is one of JAXUSA’s targeted industries, which also include advanced manufacturing, logistics and health care. CareerSource’s Moody says those are logical businesses to target because Northeast Florida’s educational and business institutions are providing the necessary training to staff them as they grow.

“We know we’ve got a strong workforce for all of those industries,” she says.