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Mark Wilson: Turning today’s learners into tomorrow’s earners

Florida is already a great place to live, work, play, and learn. It’s home to a wide variety of industries and career opportunities. But, did you know that by the year 2030, half of today’s careers and occupations won’t exist?

At the Florida Chamber of Commerce, we believe a quality education and workforce development system will enable Floridians to adapt to future disruptions and compete in the 21st century global economy.

Sweeping changes in technology, automation, and robotics are reshaping Florida’s job market and driving advancements in key industries.

If Florida’s education system fails to keep pace with these economic changes and focuses only on the jobs and industries of today, we are setting our students up for failure.

Can you imagine a future in which countless jobs go unfilled because the next generation is unprepared? It’s closer than you think. With more than 269,000 jobs open and waiting for the right person, it’s clear that today’s employers have high-wage jobs available. Businesses get hundreds of applications, but very few applicants have the needed skills. Florida still has a talent gap problem.

Will top companies remain in Florida if they can’t find the right talent?

The good news for these employers is that Florida’s education reforms are working, but success is never final. It’s more important than ever that Florida’s business community continues to help our state’s dedicated teachers and schools improve education and workforce training.

We can continue transforming learners to earners by preparing our students to compete in today’s, and tomorrow’s, global economy, better aligning programs and standards with future job demands, training and attracting the best and brightest for advancement and new careers, and increasing economic prosperity for all Floridians — starting with our youngest learners.

Florida has made tremendous progress over the past two decades to improve student achievement, but, for far too many Floridians, success in school — and in life — is still out of reach. Take, for example, that one in four children under the age of five still live in poverty, that more than half of all Florida families with school-age children qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, that high school dropouts lose out on an estimated $250,000 of lifetime earnings, and that students who fall into low socioeconomic classes are 17 times less likely to finish their postsecondary degree.

We still have work to do. Florida must continue raising expectations to make our education system even more competitive. When Florida’s businesses invest in our future workforce, today’s learners become tomorrow’s earners. With your support, the Florida Chamber will continue putting students first, and we’ll keep pushing back against special interests that seek to put themselves before students.

The Florida Chamber is working toward a future in which every Floridian reaches his or her fullest potential by starting on the road to lifelong success and flourishing throughout their journey. That future begins with a quality education.

When Florida’s learners win, Florida wins.

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Mark Wilson is President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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