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With state board seat, Rene Plasencia prepares for big workforce development effort

Plasencia sees Florida Talent Development Council key to future jobs legislation

With a new appointment to the state’s reorganized workforce education task force and his chair of the House Workforce Development & Tourism Subcommittee, Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia is readying for a big push on workforce development in 2020.

Plasencia, of Orlando, is House Speaker Jose Oliva‘s pick as the House representative on the Florida Talent Development Council, a reorganized and redirected version of the old Higher Education Coordinating Council, aimed now at better aligning education opportunities with what Florida business and industry really need in employees.

Plasencia joins Republican state Sen. Travis Hutson of St. Augustine and a list of economic development and education professional designees on the panel. The council was given more mission focus and urgency under House Bill 7071, sponsored by Hutson. That bill also laid out a broader effort for development of vocational education, apprenticeship programs, and other work-preparation strategies.

For Plasencia it’s not a theoretical issue.

His House District 50 includes a swath of nothern Brevard County where aerospace industry leaders long have been among the loudest voices complaining that they just can’t find employees with technical and vocational skills and certifications that jobs require. And Plasencia said he’s seeing that everywhere.

“We’re having a labor shortage in just about every industry, whether it’s education, health care, aerospace, manufacturing, construction… not just in Florida but nationwide,” Plasencia said.

Plasencia said Friday he’s been attending and taking numerous meetings this summer trying to assess the disconnect between education opportunities, workers, and jobs, and that he is ready for an active 2020 Legislative Session focusing on it.

He also has been traveling, learning about other states’ programs, and sitting down with local officials, including Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, who has been advocating a similar priority level for workforce development.

Employers and economic development promoters are telling him regularly that “they want to make sure here is a workforce ready to do the job, because if there’s not, there’s no point in expanding or moving to Florida.”

There also are challenges to be considered and addressed regarding increasing automation, and emerging and new industries to prepare for over the next 10-15 years, Plasencia said.

What’s more, there are some unique issues and opportunities Florida could address.

For example, some aerospace jobs need federal Department of Defense clearance for prospective employees. Plasencia reported to Oliva that Space Florida President Frank DiBello advised him that there may be federal early-clearance programs, such as what Maryland is participating in, and which Florida should pursue.

DiBello also suggested employee prescreening programs for companies, as are being run in Alabama. Space Florida Vice President Dale Ketchum suggested Florida develop ways for technical certificates to be translated into college credits.

The Space Florida officials, Placensia reported, also advised that the aerospace industry wants a “hands-on approach” to developing new workforce development programs, and raised concerns that apprenticeship programs have dissipated.

The newly-reorganized Florida Talent Development Council also includes the president of CareerSource Florida, the president of Enterprise Florida, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the Commissioner of Education, the president of the Florida Council of 100, the president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, one member of the Florida Board of Governors, and one member of the Florida Board of Education.

“We have to come together, put our heads together, bring data to the table, bring best practices… because there are other states doing it right now, in different ways, better ways,” Plasencia said.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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