December’s Government Affairs Committee meeting put a strong focus on education and workforce development, as committee members heard the priorities of the Broward Workforce Development Board (BWDA).
Mason Jackson, President & CEO of CareerSource Broward, visited the committee in hopes of gaining Chamber support for the BWDA’s top priorities.The Government Affairs Committee moved forward with passing a motion to support the first priority concerning "Florida Skills Training Allocation. The rest of the priorities will be vetted further in the new year. The Government Affairs Committee's motion was passed along to the Chamber's Board of Directors which also passed a motion in support of the allocation.
The priorities brought forth are as follows:
- Florida Skills Training Allocation
Restrictions placed on federal dollars often hamper creativity and nimbleness when trying to respond to the training needs of businesses. Non-federal dollars would give us the flexibility and nimbleness to respond to employer needs in creative ways. For example, when using our workforce funding for Apprenticeships, we are limited to employment. This limits our capability to help many businesses. If you are a student living with your parents and going to schools, you are usually under their income requirements.
Since businesses pay into the unemployment compensation program, it makes sense to use some of the money collected to meet employers’ needs for talent. It would help put the unemployed back to work, moved the underemployed up the wage ladder or help incumbent workers add skills and avoid layoffs. The proposal seeks an assessment for contributory employers under the Reemployment Assistance (RA) system with a tax offset or to use some of the penalty and interest monies to help training unemployed, underemployed and employed workers to increase their skills. No increase in taxes is recommended and would be suspended when a positive adjustment to the RA fund was needed. Target amount would be $20 million allocated to the local Workforce Boards.
- Support full use of the Sadowski Act funding for affordable housing benefiting employers, the workforce and seniors.
Lack of affordable housing has now been identified as a major barrier to attracting and retaining our workforce. The ALICE report shows that a significant number of households young and old are cost burdened in securing housing. We recommend full funding of the Sadowski Act for the purposes of affordable housing.
- Continue Apprenticeship Expansion
The 2019 Legislature took bold steps to increase workforce competitiveness with changes to FS 446 to expand Apprenticeship Training. We believe additional changes would continue that expansion and would be in line with Gubernatorial and legislative intent. These changes are:
- Have pre-apprentice covered by state worker compensation coverage similar to that which is provided to work experience participants. This would be for pre-apprentices 18 and under.
- Develop a method to allow for real time funding of apprenticeships and post-secondary programs similar to the FTE system used in secondary education.
- Allow Bright Futures scholarships to be used to fund apprenticeships and career and technical education.
- Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs are a recent expansion of the path to apprenticeships by the U.S. Department of Labor. We recommend no further restrictions at the legislative or administrative level. Please allow all the flexibility allowed under the new rules from the U.S. Department of Labor.
- The CareerSource network should be a single source for a wide range of talent within Florida.
Employ Florida should connect with graduates from our high schools, state colleges and state university systems. Current job banks systems they use or have developed should link with Employ Florida. This would improve the career links for all graduates of our educational system. It would also improve coordination and reduction of unnecessary duplication. Employers would have a single source for all their talent needs.
The main question raised, after Mason Jackson’s presentation of priorities, was the financial impact these requests would make. Jackson explained that no major financial impact would be felt as a result of implementing BWDA’s requests. He made it clear that the overall goal is to lower the skills gap and help remedy the inability to find talent for the growing jobs that are open.
Mason Jackson also highlighted the expectation that the state college system would push back against the attempt to use Bright Futures scholarships to fun apprenticeships and career and technical education.