Tallahassee Chamber continues efforts to address skilled workforce gap

From the Tallahassee Democrat

The Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is pushing dual efforts to address ongoing gaps in creating and finding skilled workers through a new website and initiative called Talent 2030.

By that year, Leon County needs to add more than 18,500 jobs to align with the state’s goal of becoming the 10th largest economy in the world and add more than 1.5 million jobs. Florida is now the 17th largest economy worldwide.

The Chamber launched TalentHub2030.com to provides businesses with access to job seekers, workforce training tools, employer-advised programs, and more.

“In the wake of COVID-19 impacts, we know our work in bridging the talent gap is even more critical than ever before,” said Terrie Ard, president and COO of Moore, a marketing firm, and Chamber board member.

Ard said the Talent Hub initiative is designed to build on the county and regional workforce needs by connecting job seekers and employers in search of skilled workers through an online platform.

Some of the partners in this effort include Tallahassee Community College, Leon County Schools, CareerSource Capital Region, and the Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality.

“This will help us emerge as a regional and global leader,” Ard said.

The Chamber’s details were discussed during a recent forum on targeting the area’s talent gap, along with insights on the state’s immediate economic outlook.

Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson, the forum’s guest speaker, said the year-over-year outlook shows the state lost almost 555,000 jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Most companies started off 2020 having a record year,” Wilson said. “Many are going to end the year having a record year. Right, but it’s not the kind of record year they thought they were going to have. But, it depends on the industry that you’re in.”

Although the pandemic poses an acute challenge, Wilson urged business and education leaders to look to the future. He stressed the importance of education, especially early learning, that will help Leon County and the state reach its workforce goals.

His message has become a frequent talking point for the private sector in recent years and has led to changes and collaborations, such as TCC’s “Be Essential” campaign to help train unemployed residents impacted by COVID-19.

But, Wilson and others say more work is ahead if the state is going to meet its workforce goals and become a global competitor.

In Leon County, 53% of children are ready for kindergarten and 61% of the third-graders can read at grade level in Leon County Schools. The Florida Chamber goal is to see 100% across the board by 2030.

“Why is it okay that there are thousands of kids in our third-grade classrooms that can’t read? It’s critical,” Wilson said. “Without fighting about it or making it partisan, the business community needs to come in and say what’s it going to take to get to 100%.”

Takeaways from the Talent Forum

  • Revenue for Florida small businesses is down 25%.
  • Year-over-year, Leon County has lost more than 16,120 jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The state is down 541,800 jobs year-over-year.
  • Leon County’s unemployment rate is 7.2%; state’s rate is 10.4%.
  • Every county in Florida has lost jobs. Dade County lost more jobs than all of North Florida counties combined.
  • Florida has 266,400 job openings compared to 1.02 million unemployed residents.
  • Roughly 3 million residents live in poverty; 900,000 are children.
  • Roughly 700,000 Floridians with disabilities want to and/or are able to work.