State of the workforce in Tampa bay

By John Flanagan, by CEO of CareerSource Tampa Bay

Job seekers are having a moment. There is boundless opportunity for those looking for employment, even more so if you possess “in-demand” skills.

Meanwhile, if you are an employer trying to fill positions, you might have your work cut out for you, depending on the set of skills you, ideally, want to hire for.

From a national perspective, there are about 11 million open jobs. And if you look at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 7 million active job seekers looking to fill those jobs, leaving more than 4 million job openings that will go unfilled in the short term.

There’s also an identifiable gap between what employers need and what is available, from a supply standpoint. It’s critical, and it’s the same in Tampa.

There are a few issues at play here, so I’m going to try to break it down to three major drivers of this disconnect.

The generational gap

While boomers were already starting to leave the workforce, or had plans to, prior to the pandemic, when COVID-19 hit, it accelerated a lot of those plans. A five-year retirement plan quickly became a “now” retirement plan, for many.

This meant that companies are now left without some valuable, well-trained, individuals to do the job they need done. And no one to train the new kids on the block. Business leaders must be prepared to have some patience with new hires.

Shifting values

The boomer generation appreciated a company for very different things than the generations coming up behind them. Generation Z and Millennial workers, both have vastly different expectations from their work/life balance, company culture and work-from-home opportunities.

Employers will need to understand this when recruiting talent.

Skills, skills, skills

The labor market is tight. While many are looking for employment, or better employment, employers are still telling us that the skills gap is a problem.

Something CareerSource Tampa Bay, in partnership with Hillsborough County’s Board of Commissioners, is doing to help with this problem is implementing the Apprenticeship-to-Career Empowerment 2.0 Program, or ACE,  which launched its second year in April.

The program works with specific, targeted industries such as manufacturing, information technology, financial services, hospitality and, this year, the program added health care.

Through this program, young adults ages 18 to 24 can connect to short-term occupational skills training that will result in industry recognized certifications and meaningful work experience.

Managing shifts in some of these trends isn’t always easy, and finding solutions to the problems takes great collaboration but the work needs to be done much sooner than later.

It’s a full circle economic development issue that, with some work between entities, will strengthen the Tampa Bay market and will enhance our competitiveness, in the national landscape, for attracting and retaining businesses and talent.

In the meantime, our advice is to start broadening your criteria and get creative in how you perceive an applicant’s skills (and how transferable they might be).

John Flanagan

There’s a good chance that someone will not come in 100% job ready. You might need to take some calculated risks to fill those positions but you could be pleasantly surprised on where you find the perfect talent for your business. Some risks reap the greatest results!

John Flanagan is the chief executive officer of CareerSource Tampa Bay. As CEO of the local workforce board, he works closely with business, government and educational entities to find workforce solutions for the more than 1.5 million Hillsborough County residents and businesses.

He is a member of Mayor Jane Castor’s Workforce Advisory Committee; the U.S. Conference of Mayors and he was chosen to serve on the Board of Trustees.

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