House panel hopes to elevate Florida’s workforce

The House Secondary Education and Career Development Subcommittee. Photo courtesy

The Florida House Secondary Education and Career Development Committee met last Wednesday at the state Capitol to hear the concerns of the public regarding the growing need for people to obtain credentials to achieve better jobs.

Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, a senior fellow with the National Skills Coalition, was the first person to share her concerns with the committee.

“As a nation, America is not keeping pace with the accelerated demands that employers have demanded,” Benfield said.

Benfield wanted to focus more on non-degree credentials (NDCs) such as certificates and licenses.

“It can be difficult for adults and other non-traditional students to understand their options,” Benfield said. “It is more common for NDCs to be earned by Black and Hispanic students when compared to degrees. NDCs can lead to increased earnings but effects vary greatly based on type and demographic.”

Benfield also shared recommendations on how to use their list of quality programs that offer these NDCs.

“You need to provide adequate resources for implementation including work to validate credentials and to track employment earnings data,” Benfield said. “and ensure that data is collected in a way that allows for desegregation by key demographic data such as race and ethnicity.”

Benfield also mentioned recommendations to the committee on how to make sure things stay in place.

“You can consider a periodic review of how things are implemented to make sure it’s keeping pace with the change in the labor market,” she said.

A former director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Mike Krause, was the second and final person to speak to the committee, also sharing his concerns for people and how the state of Tennessee has implemented things discussed by Benfield.

“We realized that going to work with just a high school diploma was not a path to a living wage,” Krause said.

Krause also spoke about unemployment.

“I think some of the hardest working state employees, well at least in Tennessee, are our unemployment benefit councils,” Krause said. “Think about how difficult it is every day to talk to people who are out of work trying to support a family.”

Krause mentioned how Tennessee has implemented programs to assist those individuals.

“In Tennessee we have a unique program that we’re able to say not only can we get you back to work but in Tennessee if you’re a displaced worker you’re able to go to technical or community college tuition free via the Tennessee reconnect program,” Krause said.

After Krause’s remarks, Representative Alex Andrade had questions regarding salary expectations.

“What would you think would be, in your estimate, a preferred starting salary if you think the focus is on starting salary versus average for that industry,” Andrade said?

Krause, however, didn’t have an estimate.

“We didn’t get that far,” Krause said. “To be completely honest, the work that got us here was long and hard.”

Both presenters tried to explain their concerns for the future of America’s workforce and in Krause’s case, to provide examples of how other states implemented plans in case state of Florida wants to follow suit.