For Tampa Bay to be globally competitive, we must develop an education pipeline that meets local needs. The prerequisites: creativity, commitment and long-term vision.
By Dan Mahurin Chair, ONE BAY: Lifelong Learning and President/CEO, Gulf Coast/North Florida Division, SunTrust Bank
Education is a critical component in economic development efforts for several reasons: It’s a highly considered factor in the site selection process of relocating and expanding companies; it influences the skills of the region’s workforce and quantity of available knowledge workers; and it contributes to increasing the income of the region’s residents.
To attract and retain innovative, high-paying organizations, a region must supply the talent those companies require to grow and prosper.
For Tampa Bay to be globally competitive, we must develop an education pipeline that is intricately linked to its economic and workforce systems. A long-term vision for achieving lifelong learning opportunities for its citizens is 100 percent essential in this new economy. We must become a region where community colleges, universities and workforce development professionals, as well as leaders in the primary education system, work together to provide an excellent and relevant talent pool for ever-changing workforce needs.
A huge component in reaching our workforce goals will be the implementation of the Regional Business Plan for Tampa Bay. Based on the region’s economic strengths and opportunities, the plan identifies four high-potential target industry clusters for sustainable job growth. Strategic workforce initiatives were also developed as part of the plan to support proper growth within the clusters, which are:
- Building more formalized mechanisms for communication and collaboration among the region’s business and academic communities
- Improving cooperation and strategic coordination between the region’s postsecondary institutions
- Utilizing the knowledge generated through this process to market Tampa Bay’s education and workforce assets
- Increasing the availability of “career ladder” programs within the region’s workforce development system, as well as the training programs and jobs available within the four target clusters
Fortunately, our education institutions and our business and civic community leaders have begun collaborating to address the need for more highly skilled professionals. In Pinellas County, the Board of County Commissioners, Education Board and St. Petersburg College Board have come together to execute the initiatives outlined above. Additionally, three Tampa Bay community colleges have joined a consortium with the University of South Florida to facilitate the transition of their graduates to USF, enhance educational opportunities for students and provide a more competitive workforce for the region.
Tampa Bay’s three Metropolitan Statistical Areas and the Orlando MSA are among 57 U.S. metro areas currently competing for the $1 million Talent Dividend Prize awarded by CEOs for Cities. However, the real prize for increasing the region’s college attainment rate by 1 percent, or 30,000 graduates, is the $3 billion economic impact that will result.
Beyond increasing the number of graduates in Tampa Bay, we must ensure that they’re entering the workforce with the skills needed to survive and prosper in a globally competitive environment. Recognizing the shift in our economy toward more technology, research and innovation-based jobs, the state of Florida has recently ramped up promotions of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education. According to Closing the Talent Gap, a 2010 report released by the Florida Council of 100 and Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida will need “100,000 more science and technology professionals than we are on track to produce” over the next five years.
Positions in these fields are increasing far more quickly than in the overall job market. Plus, they pay nearly three times as much as the average wage. Examples of incorporating more STEM education in the classroom can be seen across Florida’s Super Region:
- Gulf Coast Community Foundation is investing $2.5 million in a five-year STEM initiative at eight schools in Sarasota and Charlotte counties.
- USF was recently awarded $1.2 million National Science Foundation Grant to study the process involved in creating a highly trained workforce in engineering technology.
- The Orlando Science Center collaborates with corporate partners like JP Morgan Chase and the Orlando Utilities Commission on programs in area schools that support teachers and students with STEM lessons.
- Workforce Central Florida provides employers with a number of opportunities to help promote STEM initiatives in the local education system, including hosting interns with STEM training and presenting about their industry to classrooms.
The ONE BAY: Lifelong Learning initiative is now developing a data-driven community needs assessment about education in the region to start a dialogue with the community about what our education and workforce goals should be. The goal of the assessment is to build a broader awareness among Tampa Bay’s business community of the strengths and opportunities throughout our region’s education pipeline to fulfill future workforce needs.
This is not only an effort to inform the community of current educational benchmarks, but to convene leaders around this issue and move the region forward in building the workforce of tomorrow.
GRADUATE TAMPA BAY
In an effort to develop a more viable local economy, the Tampa Bay area’s most powerful economic development and educational organizations are joining forces to vie for top honors nationwide in the Talent Dividend Competition.
In a true collaborative effort, the Tampa Bay Partnership is bringing together the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice and Lakeland-Winter Haven metro areas as one cohesive region with one goal: Boost local economic gains through post-secondary education.
In March, a new campaign called Graduate Tampa Bay was launched, targeting the nearly 650,000 residents across the region who have some college credit, but no degree. The GTB campaign works to increase college completion rates by serving as the go-to source for information about entering or returning to college.
About the Talent Dividend Prize/Graduate Tampa
Sponsored by Chicago-based CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders, Tampa Bay’s three Metropolitan Statistical Areas and the Orlando MSA are among 57 U.S. metro areas currently competing for the $1 million Talent Dividend Prize. The Talent Dividend Prize challenges metropolitan areas nationwide to increase the number of college degrees granted per thousand people through 2013. However, the real prize for increasing the region’s college attainment rate by 1 percent, or 30,000 graduates, is the $3 billion economic impact that will result.
More information: GraduateTampaBay.org.