Point of View: Florida’s talented workforce is key to economic recovery during and after COVID-19

From The Palm Beach Post

A prosperous Florida means higher-wage jobs, stronger healthcare and education, and, of personal priority for each us, meaningful opportunities for poor and rural communities.

The effect of COVID-19 on Florida’s economy is significant, changing, and largely unknown. As the leaders of CareerSource Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, we are using emerging data on a collaborative quest to identify how we can help Florida’s economy, and its people, restart, recover and reimagine our future.

We do know there are immediate needs: to reconnect job seekers with meaningful careers and to ensure business continuity. Our CareerSource Florida network and local Chambers of Commerce are working day and night, every day of the week, to meet these urgent needs. But we also recognize the need to look forward—to set a strategy that restores economic stability and long-term prosperity for our state.

We want Florida to thrive again — as soon as possible and for as long as possible. A prosperous Florida means higher-wage jobs, stronger healthcare and education, and, of personal priority for each us, meaningful opportunities for poor and rural communities.

While we understand the challenges, we also see opportunities for Florida to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in a stronger relative position, and Florida’s workforce will play a primary role. It cannot be overstated: Talent development IS economic development. Communities used to rely on tax incentives to attract businesses, but for some time, we have recognized that a talented workforce is paramount.

Here are three opportunities we see:

Diversify our economy. Florida is the 20th most diverse economy in the nation, but just like a good financial planner says diversifying your portfolio can bring security and stability in unstable times, we are working to attract even more diverse industries. Demonstrating Florida’s workforce is capable and available will go a long way to compelling new industries to move here.

Become a global magnet for remote workers. With companies like Twitter shifting to an exclusive, longer-term remote work environment, Florida is a compelling place for these workers to relocate, considering our unmatched quality of life and no state personal income tax.

Train for the future. We are using economic data to tell us which sectors will recover most quickly and need talent the most. Additionally, we will continue to promote job training grants and apprenticeships as two strategies for employers to acquire the exact skills they need. But we also must have ongoing conversations with businesses, helping them to forecast changing needs. When we partner with educators to tailor curriculum plans, we close the loop to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.

Now, we’re asking businesses to join us in this conversation. Please connect with the CareerSource Florida network partner in your area, join your community’s Chamber of Commerce, and partner with educators in your area. We want to know what your business needs and how we can help you.

Finally, a statement of hope. We recognize the losses suffered by so many, and we are here to help employers who need it. We remain passionate about Florida’s potential to rebound with an even stronger economy and future. Even with the untold effects of COVID-19, if Florida were a stock, we’d be buying.


Editor’s note: Dennard is the president and CEO of CareerSource Florida, and Wilson is the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.