June 4, 2020
By: Tiffany Razzano
TAMPA – Mayor Jane Castor unveiled the suggestions made by her Workforce Development Advisory Team in a YouTube video Tuesday.
“These recommendations serve as a road map for addressing some of the most challenging issues facing our city,” she said. “In this case, now more than ever.”
Castor emphasized workforce development during her campaign and created a mayoral task force to focus on that area after taking office last spring.
With 1.5 million individuals, the region has one of the largest labor markets in the country and continues to grow, she said. “It also faces persistent challenges.”
Forty percent of this workforce has not earned higher than a high school diploma, she said, while only 30% of high schoolers in Tampa pursue a post-secondary education. “That creates a skills gap that can leave individuals unemployed or unprepared for higher education.”
The task force suggests an approach that brings together the public, private and non-profit sectors, Castor said, one that “focuses on developing powerful connections that align a multitude of tools and resources in a more collaborative way.”
The city will improve communications with job seekers, making it easier for them to learn about job openings as well as training programs. This means finding better ways to connect individuals with the support services they need, she said. This includes linking existing websites, “establishing a clearing house approach to the most critical information,” such as job openings, and using the mayor’s task force to share program information and practices. City staff will also work with various workforce and education partners, including the Tampa Bay Partnership and CareerSource Tampa Bay, as well as some of the area’s largest employers to disseminate this information.
Providing clear guidance will “enable job seekers to better connect to suitable jobs and career paths,” Castor said. This includes the creation of Pathways to Professions, a toolkit that will “provide a road map to a job or career based on their skills, interests or experiences,” she added.
The task force also recommends the creation of comprehensive workforce resource guides for different sectors. The first of these guides will focus on the construction trades.
“With so much development and growth across our city, we need to leverage this growth to facilitate new jobs,” she said.
Eventually, the city will expand these guides to cover other sectors, including healthcare, hospitality, IT and finance.
Castor said the city will also identify public works projects that might offer employment opportunities, including the PIPES program, a $2.9 billion upgrades to the city’s aging water and wastewater infrastructure. She estimated that this project could “employee thousands of people for decades to come.”
Outreach efforts will target young men ages 16 to 21, the “sector of the labor force (that) is the most vulnerable to gaps in the job market and also the most in need of guidance on how to fill that gap,” she said. “We want to fill that gap by taking action.”
She also hopes to encourage more high school students to pursue higher education. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, studies estimated that the U.S. economy would grow to 165 million jobs by 2020, she said. Around “65% of these jobs would require some type of post-secondary credentials,” she added.
Most Tampa-area teens – around 70% – do not go on to college or any type of job training program, she said. This means they are either unemployed or in low-wage positions.
“This is a problem. We want to uplift our youth and empower them to seek post-secondary education or training so they can continue on a path towards a prosperous future,” Castor said. “We need to engage disconnected youth to make sure they have access to information about resources and programs that can help them take the next step on the path towards a good job.”
She acknowledges the “unique challenges” Tampa faces because of the coronavirus pandemic, but she is confident the city will move forward. Adopting the task force’s recommendations will only further benefit the local economy, she said.
“I know our workforce will continue to forge through every obstacle together, lifting up local businesses so that they can persevere,” she said. “As our city continues to grow, now, more than ever, we will continue opening doors across industries, especially in the construction trades.”
Castor added, “Our city is still on the rise. We are still transforming Tampa’s tomorrow with a brighter future for generations to come. It’s time that we invest in our workforce so we can continue working together toward the city that we’re all proud to live, work and play in.”