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Education and Workforce

There’s An Old Saying about Investing in Employees: If You Think Education Is Expensive, Just Try Ignorance

Florida’s low cost of living translates, in some cases, to lower wages. Employers in it for the long haul, though, realize that investing in their own workforce pays off right away and opens new avenues to growth.

That’s why JAXUSA, a division of the JAX Chamber, is expanding the nucleus of talent development in the Jacksonville area. Employees and companies can plateau when they don’t have the right mix of technical, problem-solving and business skills to make the most of new opportunities. JAXUSA aligns local high schools, colleges, municipalities and businesses to equip today’s workers with skills they, and their employers, need for long-term growth.

Baptist Health System, for instance, is a leading example of an organization that empowers and develops their internal team members to fill open positions. Partnering with local colleges, Baptist Health offers educational opportunities at no cost to selected team members from various entry level positions, such as environmental services and food and nutrition. This win-win opportunity helps to develop dedicated team members who have a passion for patient care, while also reducing an identified shortage of qualified staffing needs. Similar programs are blooming around Florida as community colleges collaborate with employers.

The whole spectrum is designed to open new growth for the staff while solving a chronic staffing challenge for the hospital, explains Tina Wirth, vice president of Workforce Development with JAXUSA Partnership.

Merritt Island Boat Works Inc., Merritt Island, FL.

Community colleges are also helping employers meet workforce demands by providing better information around high-growth occupations.  The Career Pathways program at Indian River State College helps new high school graduates and midlife adults zero in on the exact blend of classes and work experiences that qualify them to win high-growth positions in industries ranging from construction to digital arts.

Adults who want to shift career direction midstream can gain traction in their new lanes through programs that let them earn college equivalency credit for what they already know.

Reflecting a statewide priority to shorten the time to college completion, Palm Beach State College integrates “prior learning” into apprenticeship and course plans, creating a custom plan that enables family-supporting adults to merge into new careers without gaps in income.

The state’s initiatives are supported by some natural advantages: in Florida, unlike many other states, each county has a single school district, and other aspects of municipal and college boundaries are streamlined. That keeps territorial disputes to a minimum and makes it much easier to get the right players on board for regional initiatives, says Wirth.

The streamlined bureaucracies are an advantage that potential employers appreciate as they dig deep into the core dynamics of investing in the area, says Wirth.

“Employers want to work with whole systems that are not fractured,” she says. “Even though our movement is in its infancy, all our leaders – colleges, social services, high schools – are dedicated to seeing our college completion rate increase, and to opening new ways for our workforce and our employers to grow.”