For starters, consider this statistic, as reported by the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce: When it comes to millennials in the workforce, the region holds nearly 50% more talent compared to the national average. That represents more than 86,000 young people, many of whom are college educated and others who are willing.
Not coincidentally, with the regional unemployment hovering between 3% and 4%, much of the five-year strategic plan for CareerSource North Central Florida (encompassing Alachua and Bradford counties) is focused on vocational training — helping job seekers prepare, search, train for and identify career opportunities. The priorities, among others, include entrepreneurship training, earn-while-you-learn programs, soft-skills training and job matching.
Emblematic of such efforts, last March CareerSource North Central Florida was awarded $350,000 in state pilot grants to launch or expand three workforce programs. The grants, administered under a fund through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, include the Maker Professional Apprenticeship (manufacturing), Stepping Stones (building trades/construction) and Building Bridges (training/reentry opportunities in cooperation with the Florida Department of Corrections). Each of the programs addresses a specific gap in the workforce, such as ensuring that lesser-educated residents have a place in the workforce too.
“We’re especially passionate at, and we believe effective at, pairing those who may face significant barriers to entering or reentering the workforce with the opportunity to gain business-driven skills in a paid, work-based environment supported [by us],” says Frank Avery, executive director of CareerSource North Central Florida.
Notably, some of the programs provide individuals from low-income families with the opportunity to be paid to learn how to work with area tech firms in high-demand positions, Avery adds.
“We pair these opportunities with classroom training support and, most critically, a rigorous entrepreneurship training program, which helps our participants shift their mindset from working ‘for’ the boss to learning how to be the boss,” Avery continues.
Santa Fe College is constructing a new business and tech center, and seeking to create education programs that match industry needs.
“The result is a competitive talent pool — from the most skills to those most in need — ready to get to work and fill the immediate needs of our high-demand, high-growth businesses,” says Avery.