SARASOTA, Fla. (June 27, 2019) – The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and the CareerEdge workforce development initiative of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce hosted a summit on June 21 of Sarasota-Manatee business, community and education leaders to explore workforce-policy issues.
The Regional Workforce Solutions Summit brought together more than 30 leaders from the two counties for a four-hour session that examined specific public policies that affect workforce development.
A study in December by the Tampa Bay Partnership, a regional advocacy organization, reported that healthcare, corporate offices and business services, tourism and hospitality, retail and construction are expected to account for 88 percent of the projected 78,000 new jobs created over the next five years in the Tampa Bay region, which includes the Sarasota-Manatee area.
When factoring in replacement needs that account for workers exiting the workforce or changing occupations, the region is expected to have more than 850,000 total job openings during that period.
Thanks to migration into Tampa Bay, the labor pool is growing, but educational attainment remains a challenge. Only 30 percent of the region’s high school students go on to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree and of those, many are not aligned to the job market, forcing employers to spend more on training.
“While we do have a lot of positives for our region – a lot of migration into this area and a lot of entrepreneurs in the Sarasota-Manatee region – we also have some challenges, and that’s why we are here today,” said Mireya Eavey, executive vice president of CareerEdge workforce development and education initiatives at the Sarasota Chamber.
“We want to bring alignment to all of our community partners – our educators, employers and our foundations – so that we are all on the same page with our workforce policies, and together everyone in our community can move workforce development forward,” she said.
The session was co-hosted by the Sarasota Chamber and USFSM’s Institute for Public Policy and Leadership (IPPL), which connects academic resources with local, national and global experts to create a dynamic exchange of ideas around important policy and leadership issues.
“It is the role of a community-engaged institution such as USFSM to be a neutral convener on important topics and for IPPL to provide regional stakeholders a forum to have meaningful policy discussions,” said Casey Welch, director of the IPPL and assistant vice president for external affairs and government relations at USFSM.
USFSM Regional Chancellor Karen A. Holbrook, PhD, led off the summit at the campus’ Selby Auditorium, emphasizing the importance of workforce solutions as the Tampa Bay region expands.
“This is one of the most important discussions that we can have here today, to help our workforce and local businesses find readiness solutions that benefit both groups,” Holbrook told the crowd.
The attendees included business leaders and representatives of the Sarasota and Manatee chambers of commerce, local economic development agencies, and non-profit and industry-based organizations, including the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association and Manatee Technical College.
Regions Bank provided lunch, and Market Executive Gehard Toth, commercial banking leader for Southwest Florida, led one of the conversations.
The summit came about after a year of workforce strategy discussions by the Regional Workforce Council at the Sarasota Chamber and the Suncoast Education Solutions Summit hosted by the IPPL in December 2018. The gathering was divided into two sessions. The first focused on identifying critical workforce and employer issues while the second explored potential solutions and policy recommendations.
After talks by Eavey, Welch and Elizabeth Cordes, of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation, the attendees divided into groups for a break-out session on policy recommendations. Welch then hosted a talk summing up the groups’ ideas.
Among the recommendations were:
- Increased educational attainment within the Tampa Bay region
- Better alignment of workforce training programs with higher education partners
- Unified advocacy for policy changes at local, state and federal levels
Eavey said the next step is to develop a list of concrete policy proposals around these and other recommendations to bring to state lawmakers in August.
“We want to have a workforce agenda where we are all on the same page, whether it’s about economic development, the needs of our chambers or those of our educators, that we all have a uniform message when we talk to our legislators,” she said. “That’s what we are striving for as we move forward from this session.”
For more information about USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit http://sar.usfsm.edu/.