A large part of Florida’s economy and workforce has centered on agriculture, tourism and construction. But business and industry and other stakeholders say there will be a shift in the coming decades, with health care, finance and logistics and distribution leading the way in job growth.
A new study from the Florida Chamber Foundation analyzes the state’s current leading industries — from the number of jobs to required skills — and forecasts which industries are expected to grow by 2030. The analysis includes a breakdown of demographics by age, income, education and even if residents are foreign-born, all of which are critical as state leaders develop economic and workforce strategies.
With an exploding population led by retirees and minorities, coupled with a wave of retiring baby boomers from the workforce, state leaders are mulling how to keep growing the state’s economy, which is the third largest in the U.S.
Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, noted in a press call that employers are increasingly looking at workforce skills when deciding where to locate.
“It’s all about the talent,” he said. “Talent is replacing tax incentives as the economic tool of choice.”
In terms of education, Florida has improved in high school and postsecondary attainment since the mid-1990s, but more is needed for continued economic growth — 64 percent of Florida jobs will require some form of postsecondary education by 2021, according to the study.
The report notes five industries that will expand in the state over the next decade:
- aerospace and aviation
- finance and professional services
- health care and life sciences
- logistics and distribution
Of those five, finance and professional services, and health care and life sciences currently offer the most jobs in the state, and each is expected to have a 6 percent net job growth through 2021.
“There are strong middle-skill and entry-level opportunities within each of the five clusters,” the report says.
The report also details key job opportunities in those growing industries for residents with credentials less than a baccalaureate, and the jobs that are expected to have the greatest long-term skills gaps. For example, in health care and life sciences — in which two-thirds of jobs require a postsecondary degree or credential — jobs as medical assistants, licensed practical and vocational nurses, and medical records and health information technicians are expected to have the highest growth for individuals with less than a baccalaureate. But the industry is expected to have serious skills gaps for positions that include billing and posting clerks and medical and clinical lab technologists.
State workforce officials said technology is driving rapid changes in the workforce, and it is difficult to prepare students and workers for jobs that don’t yet exist. Although job-specific skills are important, the report highlights how critical it is for workers to have “employability skills” — such as communication and problem-solving — and advanced digital skills, such as word processing, and networking and design.
“These skills are not only important in ‘tech’ jobs, but are increasingly integrated into occupations in all sectors; and research has shown that digital skills are increasingly a differentiating factor between entry-level and middle-skill jobs,” the report says.
Nationally, about 41 percent of all occupations are middle-skill jobs and 78 percent of middle-skill positions require digital skills, it notes.
The foundation’s study also includes general recommendations and specific strategies for policymakers, educators and the business community. It’s four core recommendations are:
- Expand and deepen cross-sector collaboration between business, education and workforce development.
- Foster opportunities for targeted skills development in a way that is responsive to the ever-shifting needs of a global economy.
- Create effective “bridges” to facilitate transitions between high school, postsecondary and/or the workforce.
- Establish community-wide accountability structures to help measure progress and system alignment.
“While some of these ideas are not new, there is an urgency for Florida’s stakeholders to coalesce around these recommendations to ensure that Florida has the talent it needs in 2030 and beyond,” the study says.
Among the more interesting strategies suggested for policymakers is improving statewide career awareness and counseling — starting with noting the distinction between the two: guidance counselors focus on helping students with social and emotional needs, and career counselors help students to prepare for careers.
Another policy suggestion was to improve transitions between high school, college and work. For example, the state could expand early college high school programs and more closely examine guided pathway models, a strategy that the American Association of Community Colleges has focused on through its Pathways project.
“Guided pathways help students complete degrees more quickly by choosing a major soon after enrolling and providing a clear ‘road map’ for the courses they must complete,” the report says, citing Miami Dade College as a leader in implementing this approach across the state, which should be expanded to schools across the Florida College System.