Talent will be key driver of Southeast Florida’s success in becoming a global hub and developing strong innovation clusters. Workforce skills and education attainment are strongly correlated with higher employment levels and incomes for both individuals and regions as a whole and are a key driver of economic competitiveness.
Southeast Florida has a large and growing workforce, supporting nearly 2.4 million jobs today. The region’s workforce, like its population, is one of the most diverse in the nation, which a tremendous asset as the region pursues opportunities in global trade and services. The educational attainment of the region’s residents roughly tracks the national average, but this masks tremendous variation among counties and among socioeconomic groups in the region.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity projects that two out of three jobs in 2019 will require some form of postsecondary education and training, with more than half in “middle skill” occupations that typically require vocational education, industry certifications, or other technical training. The percentage of four-year college graduates in the region is slightly higher than the national average, with concentrations in Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin counties. The number of “middle skill” workers is relatively low across the board, and job growth in these categories have lagged during the past decade. The percentage of residents without a high school diploma is higher than the national average, with significant pockets of unskilled workers in parts of the region.
Developing and retaining a highly skilled workforce must be a critical priority for the future of the region. Immediate actions should include documenting current and future workforce needs and skills gaps to support the targeted innovation clusters and the global role, and then aligning education and workforce development programs to address these gaps.
Ultimately, the region should move toward a world class education system from pre-kindergarten to graduate degree and technical training programs that emphasizes:
- Positioning Southeast Florida as a global leader in key educational programs, such as trade and logistics or hospitality management;
- Strengthening critical skill areas with emphasis on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM); creative thinking; entrepreneurial skills; and language and cultural skills;
- Developing innovative programs such as career academies, internships, and business-industry partnerships to prepare workers for the jobs of the future;
- Enabling lifelong learning and continued skill upgrades to reflect an evolving economy;
- Integrating immigrants and traditionally underreached population groups into the region’s workforce;
- Retaining college graduates and skilled workers in the region; and
- Preparing Southeast Florida residents to become engaged citizens and leaders.