A cross-section of Tampa Bay’s business leaders today said an “unwavering commitment to higher educational standards” is the single most important element to meeting Florida employers’ workforce needs and enhancing their global competitiveness.
Tampa Bay leaders representing the region’s major industry groups and employers said the evolving nature of the modern workplace requires a highly skilled workforce with exceptional critical thinking skills. The business leaders praised the educational progress made under education reform, including higher graduation rates and improved test scores in reading and math. But, they said Florida must continue to raise the bar to produce a workforce that is ready to work without remediation and without extensive retraining.
Representing the Tampa Bay Partnership, president and CEO Stuart Rogel and COO John Schueler said a better-prepared workforce is essential to meet economic development goals and create a better business environment throughout the region.
“Our team strives to promote and market Tampa Bay as a world-class business destination,” Rogel said. “But our success depends on Florida graduating work-ready and skilled students.
Schueler uniquely understands the frustrations of business owners in hiring and retaining qualified staff.
“Tampa Bay employers are overwhelmingly in need of work-ready graduates who can compete in a global economy,” Schueler said, citing his support for the recently adopted Florida Standards, which include greater emphasis on critical thinking skills. “These standards support students as they develop greater mastery of key concepts that are essential in the modern workplace.”
These workforce concerns are shared by Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Coalition.
“The availability of a skilled workforce provides a critical competitive advantage in our efforts to attract and retain high-wage jobs and capital investment in Hillsborough County and the cities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace,” Homans said. “We are encouraged by the dramatic gains Florida students have achieved, and Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia deserves kudos for her leadership on these issues. Our schools are moving in the right direction, but there is more to be done, and we will only get there by continuing to raise the bar.”
Companies expend substantial resources to train or re-teach skills that employees should already have learned.
“The burdens that employers bear for remediation and retraining are real and costly,” said Rogel. “A job-ready workforce will improve conditions for Tampa Bay’s existing business sector, and also will attract new businesses to further expand economic opportunities.”
“Florida needs to build a home-grown talent pool that is second to none. Businesses go where the education system is strong,” Rogel continued. “We are cheating students if we don’t help them graduate with the skills they need to succeed.”