Feature by Young Professionals Group Coordinator Mimi Fleck, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.
Less than a month ago, people all over Sarasota County added a few extra minutes to their commutes to accommodate school zones. Area colleges filled their dorms with anxious freshmen, and parents everywhere scrambled to find folders with tabs and pockets for their child’s school supply list. While many see back to school as a new start, local community leaders were gathering all summer long to prepare Sarasota for something much more challenging.Florida is bracing for a disaster that is beginning to brew below the surface. We need talented and skilled individuals, and we need them now. Sarasota County is expected to see a job growth of nearly 30,000 jobs by the year 2020—only half of which is for the replacement of retiring boomers (Florida Department of Economic Opportunity). And while many of these jobs will require a post-secondary degree, only 40% of Sarasota County’s working age population (aged 25 and older) have obtained some college, associates, bachelors or a graduate/professional degree. This is a challenge that has deep roots. Nearly 1 in 4 of our students entering Kindergarten are not ready to learn, and 30% of our students do not demonstrate reading proficiency by 3rd grade. In a recent Chamber Member Intel survey, 60% of employers reported having difficulty filling open positions in the last 12 months, with respondents sharing that too few applicants applied and/or that the applicants lacked occupational skills.
“Florida faces an emerging Talent Gap – an urgent shortage of resource as basic as food, more valuable than gold and in higher global demand than oil. This crisis in human capital represents a vast and growing unmet need for a highly skilled and educated workforce – our state’s most important resource for driving sustainable economic development and a diversified economy.” (Florida Council of 100, Closing the Talent Gap)
In response to this crisis, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce has joined with other groups to form the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership (T4T) to create a more competitive and resilient workforce that benefits the economic and social future of our region. The T4T Partnership is a community-based, “cradle to career” educational attainment and workforce development initiative is designed to assure that our citizens have the career tools and our employers have the talent they need to compete and prosper in the ever-changing economy of the 21st century.
The T4T Partnership is designed to bring together leaders from business and industry, the School district, higher education institutions, nonprofits, and youth serving organizations to respond to the ever-widening skills gap our region is facing. With The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce serving as the backbone organization, a T4T Vision Council has forged new partnerships and explored opportunities to work in unison with existing worthwhile projects, programs and organizations so as to leverage efforts and align resources.
How does the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership know that the projects its working on are effective? Like any organization, T4T recognizes that data must be the driver. The T4T Vision Council looked to other communities for best practices, discussed with local experts, and collaborated with community leaders to determine nine metrics, spanning preschool through post-secondary and beyond, which will guide the projects and efforts of the enlisted community partners. These “core indicators” are the lighthouses that will help us navigate the foggy waters of closing the skills gap. The core indicators include:
- Kindergarten Readiness
- 3rd Grade Reading Proficiency
- Algebra 1 Proficiency
- Completion of Accelerated Curricula
- Earning of Career Technical Education (CTE) Certifications
- High School Graduation
- Post-Secondary Enrollment
- Post-Secondary Attainment
- Successfully Enters a Career
By engaging everyone around the table in discussions about the data, we are able to target areas that our community most needs support, as well as areas we can celebrate. These indicators are not about individual programs or organizations; the focus must always be about improving the community as a whole. Everyone has a role to play, and these indicators not only give us a common language, but also help invite more people into the conversation. With meaningful metrics being tracked, we can set big goals as a community and make informed decisions on methods to reach them. The data clarifies the challenges, helps us ideate solutions, develop new opportunities, and implement proactive answers to this immense crisis we are facing.
For more information, please contact Mimi Fleck at firstname.lastname@example.org.