Patricia Levesque: Chris Sprowls creating smarter plan for workforce development
Chris Sprowls. Image via Colin Hackley.

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It’s a smart, strategic move.

As Florida recovers and rebuilds from COVID-19, many workers — especially those who lost their jobs, hours or wages during the pandemic — are looking to build their skills and pursue better-paying jobs and careers.

A proposal championed by Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls would refocus our state’s workforce programs to align education and training opportunities with higher-paying, higher-skill jobs that Floridians want and that employers need to fill. It’s a smart, strategic move that maximizes resources and prepares students for a successful career.

House Bill 1507 is reflective of the House’s bold and forward-thinking approach. These legislative proposals focus the state’s workforce development system on the jobseeker and create better, more efficient opportunities for students and workers to gain the skills they need for higher-quality and higher-wage, in-demand jobs available across Florida.

The legislation begins a holistic approach to reforming Florida’s workforce system, making workforce development a priority in the Governor’s office and streamlining workforce programs within Florida’s commerce and workforce agencies.

Better yet, it empowers Floridians by using data and analytics to provide more detailed guidance on what skills and training are best positioned to lead to a good-paying, fulfilling career.

The legislation would also provide immediate benefits for workers who were laid off, worked fewer hours, or were furloughed in recent months. Grants of $3,000 would be available to help Floridians earn in-demand, short-term credentials so they can quickly get the skills they need for the jobs they deserve.

And there is no downside for the student. The legislation offers a money-back guarantee. If students who complete programs for certain higher-skill and higher-wage, in-demand occupations are unable to find a job in that field within six months, their tuition gets refunded. This commitment shows the faith the state has in its technical centers and colleges — and the people who lead and teach these programs — to deliver on the promise these programs provide to our students.

Let’s help Floridians build the skills they need, and earn the degrees and certifications required to contribute to tomorrow’s workforce. Florida’s businesses will benefit from trained workers. Florida’s economy will gain from their impact. And most importantly, the workers will be prepared to earn good pay, provide for their families and give back to their communities. I appreciate the leadership of Speaker Sprowls and Reps. Clay Yarborough and Lauren Melo. Their commitment to Florida’s future is inspiring. Let’s get this legislation across the finish line.

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Patricia Levesque is the executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future.

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