House members want to bring accountability to the state’s workforce system. The chamber is ready for a vote on bills that would address weaknesses revealed by a federal audit.
An audit conducted earlier this year by the Department of Labor reviewed data from 2017 to 2020 to understand the structure, management and performance of CareerSource Florida. CareerSource guides workforce development for the state.
Two bills cleared on second reading in the House Tuesday seek to address issues from that audit by revamping the state’s workforce system to create a more efficient pipeline from the classroom to the workplace by streamlining state career resources and providing accountability across all new programs.
Jacksonville Rep. Clay Yarborough sponsors one piece of the legislation, the Reimagining Education and Career Help Act (HB 1507), also called REACH.
REACH aims to streamline and coordinate data collection among Florida’s workforce and education programs, which is necessary because the bill also only funds workforce partners that can show results.
The bill dictates a new REACH Office in the Governor’s Office to coordinate all the access points to education and career help.
Yarborough said a feature of the program is a “new money back guarantee.” Under the program, certain students at Florida schools would get their tuition back if they cannot get a job within six months of completing workforce programs, which include maintaining good attendance, attending career events and enrolling in an internship or apprenticeship, among others. Yarborough said the program is similar to one in Texas that has been successful.
“If we want to improve every Floridian’s opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency, we must take a systemwide holistic approach,” Yarborough said.
Yarborough also said job losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic make support for job seekers even more important.
The other bill (HB 1505), which deals with workforce programs and services, is sponsored by Naples Rep. Lauren Melo.
That bill includes a measure that requires CareerSource and the departments of Economic Opportunity, Education, and Children & Families to create a single Workforce Information System, so students and job seekers can access services from multiple agencies through one site.
“With this bill, we will transform our workforce system from one that is fragmented and inefficient into one that puts opportunities for sustainable, long-term employment first. Floridian’s shouldn’t have to work so hard to get to work,” Melo said in March.
The bill also aims to connect students with paid apprenticeship work and creates a new credential system to help job seekers prove they have attained skills and are employable.
Melo said the two bills work in conjunction to streamline the overall process of accessing job resources in Florida, resulting in an annual report on the effort.
Senate companion legislation (SB 366 / SB 98) is moving through committees in that chamber.