by Jeff Zbar
Updated 2 yearss ago
At the Riverside Hotel on Las Olas Boulevard, Vice President and General Manager Heiko Dobrikow is keenly committed to helping his staff learn, grow and thrive in a hospitality industry expected to have 6,000 new hotel rooms come online in coming years.
At JM Family Enterprises, where Chairman Colin Brown is overseeing a multimillion dollar makeover of the company’s Deerfield Beach headquarters, he calls his 4,200 associates “our most important asset.” Nothing he spends on company advancement can outweigh the returns of spending on his fellow associates, he says.
“Just like investing in software or any other aspect of running your business, every expense you make in your associates is an investment,” he says. “If you start doing it that way, it changes how you look at things.”
In a tight labor market, abundant and skilled workers become every employer’s most important asset. Throughout the county, employers, educators and workforce development professionals are taking a renewed focus on how they prepare tomorrow’s employees. Colleges, universities, trade academies and even grade schools are collaborating to offer a wider set of more advanced degrees and certifications.
Job training organizations have been especially busy in Greater Fort Lauderdale, where employers and employees seem well matched. The county jumped 72 places, to No. 36 from No. 108, on the EMSI Annual Talent Attraction Scorecard in 2017. This moved it from the top 18% of large communities to the top 6%.
One in six jobs statewide have been created in Broward County, which bodes well for the 61 new residents who arrive here daily, says Mason Jackson, president and CEO of CareerSource Broward, the county’s federally funded provider of workforce services to employers and job seekers alike.
When Amazon sought bids from cities for its second U.S. headquarters, the three area counties boasted their combined
3 million-person labor pool and 375,000 college and university students. When it comes to talent, Broward is perfectly positioned on the 50-yard line of a rich regional field.
For those companies already here or looking to move and in need of a skilled workforce, CareerSource and other organizations partner with employers, staffing agencies, career and technical colleges and traditional universities to align the skills and talent needs of 10,000 area employers with the 60,000 job seekers who arrive seeking training and advice for their “first, next or better” job, Jackson says.
Partners include the county’s colleges, universities and public schools, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Service Corps of Retired Executives and Hispanic Unity. Jackson’s organization can build on the efforts of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Broward County, whose career day teaches hundreds of area teens about financial literacy, career assessment, in-demand trades or the opportunities that come with a certification or college education.
“The watchword here is collaboration. One call gets us all, and we all work together,” Jackson says. “It doesn’t matter who calls the meeting, we all come. That level of collaboration and cooperation — people say they didn’t have that where they came from.”
Especially critical have been those “middle-skilled” jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. These include IT and network engineering professionals; aviation, marine and construction trade jobs that require specific training and apprenticeships; and nursing, health care and life sciences sectors forecast to grow for years to come. For those businesses seeking qualified interns, CareerSource helps place candidates into posts that promise real work experience.
Throughout the labor continuum, employers will find worker educational levels exceeding state and regional averages, with higher percentages of bachelor’s degrees and a lower percentage of those with only a 12th-grade education than in many other markets. The result can be a positive, self-perpetuating cycle that makes the county among the nation’s best in talent attraction and retention, Jackson says. Skills gap studies touching workforce candidates from high school to professionals have bolstered courses related to soft skills across all industries.
Proximity to area research universities allows top-tier employers to find internship and job candidates in highly skilled disciplines, says Carlos Penzini, senior vice president of “people” with Magic Leap. The company’s annual internship fair lands students from schools statewide as well as top universities around the country.
Greater Fort Lauderdale’s and Florida’s location at the “crossroads of the hemisphere” also helps attract global talent for the hundreds of area companies doing business throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, even Europe and Asia. A “majority-minority” county, Broward is rich with ethnic and cultural diversity ideally matched to a flattening world market.
More than 90 languages are spoken throughout the county. For millennials more tolerant and expecting of diversity in today’s market, employers who embrace inclusion, as well as a shared spirit of community service, will find an eager workforce.
“Today’s workforce is more concerned about mission than a job. They want to know what they’re doing is important,”Jackson says. “There’s still the feeling that young people would like to change the world or make a contribution to change the world so they’d like to know their jobs are doing something meaningful.”