Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls led the lower chamber Wednesday in the passage of two bills that will transform Florida’s career system for job seekers and students.
Both bills passed with bipartisan support on the House floor.
In a statement after the bills’ passage, Sprowls, who deemed the legislation a priority, said the need came after a federal audit revealed weaknesses in CareerSource, the network that guides workforce development in Florida. The issues were exasperated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic that has left many seeking a job or their next step in education, Floridians have been hamstrung by an outdated and fragmented workforce system that puts more emphasis on inputs than outcomes. We’re putting an end to that today. In Florida, workforce programs must meet actual outcome standards,” Sprowls said. “With the passage of these bills, job seekers and students can be confident that we are closer than ever to providing the most unified and exceptional workforce system in the nation to help them land and grow in an in-demand career.”
After the bills passed, Sprowls revealed the reason a rolled-up blueprint was set on each Representative’s desk.
“What it outlines is the most significant redesign of our workforce system of any other state in America,” Sprowls said.
The two pieces of legislation are lengthy. Combined they total 140 pages. Overall the legislation aims 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.
“It is imperative that we ensure our workforce and education systems are efficiently serving Floridians, preparing them to succeed in a robust, competitive and changing economy,” Yarborough said. “The legislation refocuses Florida’s workforce system to be on the consumer — improving his or her access to services and effectively measuring the success of job training on job placement.”
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 on the House floor Tuesday.
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.
“A single workforce information system will help consumers access services from multiple agencies through one unified site,” Melo said. “The bill establishes specific outcome and performance measurements for apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs and improves career planning help by requiring state resources be integrated.”
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.
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.