Each month, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam looks at the list of top job openings the governor gives him. And each month, the top jobs remains same.
Nursing is usually at the top of the list, tractor-trailer drivers aren’t far behind. And their constant presence at the top of the list tells Putnam this: The state needs to invest in workforce development.
“If you look at all the job vacancies, frequently those vacancies don’t necessarily require a four-year degree,” said Putnam, after brief remarks at Gov. Rick Scott’s 2017 Jobs Summit. “If we want to have manufacturing in the state, that’s industry certifications and trades and training that does not require a university experience. They’re both important, but universities get all the glory.”
Putnam was one of several speakers during the first day of the two-day conference, aimed at bringing business and community leaders together to discuss economic and business development.
While much of the day focused on tax cuts, economic incentives and the need for tourism marketing dollars, Putnam’s remarks focused largely on the importance of keeping talent in Florida.
“We need an education system that prepares a workforce for both STEM degrees and the trades; careers that allow (students) to find their piece of the American dream in Florida,” said Putnam, a likely 2018 gubernatorial candidate. “So the kids that grow up in the Glades, the Suwannee Valley or Northwest Florida don’t need to leave the town they love to find the job they need to feed their families.”
But that means convincing people that workforce education plays an important role in Florida’s future. Putnam said that takes leadership, and said it can be done by focusing on opportunities and wages.
“We create our own luck in business,” he said. “Florida has come too far to turn back now.”