Experts discuss workforce development at the 2021 Tallahassee Chamber Conference

Published: Aug. 14, 2021 at 11:23 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is hosting its Community Conference in Amelia Island during the weekend of August 13 through 15.

One breakout panel was titled, “Talent 2030: How Tallahassee can become Florida’s talent capital.”

Experts say Tallahassee is in a workforce crisis; right now, the community needs 2,800 additional people to fill the available, open jobs.

Terrie Ard, the moderator and President of Moore, Inc, said to stay competitive by 2030, Tallahassee needs the equivalent of “ten more Amazons” in the area, adding 2,000 jobs each year.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are in a workforce crisis,” said Ard. “This is where we all need to be focused to drive the solutions.”

Ard said a group is meeting to create a strategic plan; she added it’s critical to fully understand the data and challenges to bring forward solutions on the workforce.

She asked Kimberly Moore, the Vice President of Innovation at Tallahassee Community College, about the driving force of the workforce crisis.

Moore said there is currently a misalignment with talent; she had four suggestions. They include creating opportunities to ensure individuals seeking work get the necessary retraining, and looking at and acknowledging individuals taking on work and doing the job in a different way (ie: hybrid or remote).

Moore also mentioned the wage bubble and the need to make sure people have “soft skills.”

Shelly Bell with Lively Technical College spoke about the need for businesses to work with the Kindergarten through 12th grade system.

She added that there isn’t one pathway to success.

“We have to change the narrative that vocational education and skilled trades is not less than, but equal to,” said Bell.

Bell says the future of the workforce is currently sitting in elementary, middle, and high schools.

Bell also highlighted Leon Works, saying they are focused on adding pathways for students in high schools, especially ones leading to the healthcare industry.

“We’ve worked to try to meet their needs in the nursing assistant program that we’re feeding to them. And as a parent, if you’re think your child wants to go to medical school, what better way to figure out if they like blood and guts than to put them into a high school nursing program?” she said.

Jim McShane, the CEO of CareerSource Capital Region, was another panel member. He said his company is available to help businesses find the people they need, but that they need input.

“The focus is not on the paper you get when you graduate, but the skills you bring to the table,” said McShane.

Ard emphasized Tallahassee is not unique in its workforce challenges, but added, “We want to be the first that solves it so that we have more talent coming in.”

The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce has created a resources called “Talent Hub,” a data-based platform connecting people looking for jobs with training and employment opportunities. Businesses can also sign up in the portal to find applicants who might be a good fit. You can access the hub here.

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