Florida is about to test a totally revamped workforce system. The new system is expected to create a more efficient pipeline from the classroom to the workplace by streamlining state career resources.
The legislation was a priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls this past Session.
“There is nothing like it in the nation. There is no state in America who has tried to reimagine their workforce system to this scale,” Sprowls said at the bill signing.
Three new laws signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday are aimed primarily at vocational and technical programs.
The new laws should create easier access to the non-university track in Florida. Sprowls called the new system a “melody of economic mobility.”
DeSantis said the new program and funding will allow high schoolers to start apprenticeships and other job training while still in school, eventually spitting them right out into Florida’s high-demand job market.
“You look at things in aircraft maintenance you look at things like welding, all these things, there’s a demand. These are good paying jobs,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis, who went to Yale for his undergraduate studies and Harvard for law school, said the payoff for some four-year degrees is not worth the cost.
“You have some of these students that are saddled to thousands of dollars in debt, sometimes $100,000+, and then they have a degree in like zombie studies or something, and then they get out and it’s like, okay, you end up working in a job that you didn’t even need to go to college for,” DeSantis said.
The most expansive of three bills, House Bill 1507, establishes the Reimagining Education and Career Help (REACH) Act.
In order to coordinate the effort, the bill dictates a new REACH Office in the Office of the Governor to streamline all of the access points to education and career help across Florida’s workforce resources in the Department of Economic Opportunity, the Department of Education and CareerSource. CareerSource is the statewide workforce service comprised of business and government leaders charged with guiding workforce development in the state.
The REACH Act also requires Florida’s workforce agencies to collaborate with business and industry leaders to create a state-approved list of credentials to align training with workforce demands. Job tracks in high-demand fields will be supported by a new Open Door Workforce Grant Program, which received a $35 million appropriation.
“We’re proud of our university system. Obviously that’s an important track for many people. But I think what we’ve tried to emphasize since I became Governor is pursuing vocational education, pursuing career education, technical education. Pursuing a career in the skilled trades is admirable,” DeSantis said.
Another new law (SB 366) incentivizes businesses to hire students by providing workers comp through the school they are attending.
That law also aligns math pathways at all of Florida’s postsecondary institutions to support science, technology, engineering and math careers, and it encourages the pursuit of aviation maintenance by expanding the Florida Private Student Assistance Program grant to students seeking a certificate in that field.
The last bill (SB 52) creates the Dual Enrollment Scholarship Program. With a $15.5 million appropriation, the program closes gaps for high school students who struggled to access dual enrollment opportunities year-round at Florida’s state colleges and universities.
The decision to improve the state’s workforce program came after an audit conducted earlier this year by the Department of Labor revealed weaknesses in the system. It reviewed data from about 2017 to 2020 to understand the structure, management and performance of CareerSource Florida.
Another related bill passed this Session, House Bill 1505, has not yet been signed by the Governor, as it has not yet been sent to his office. That bill, which passed with bipartisan support, would add a data tracking element to the new programs and use that data to judge progress and make decisions.