Impact on Economy and Workforce

Across the nation, we are witnessing the growing need for a new type of worker—skilled workers whose jobs may not require a bachelor’s degree, but require more technical education beyond a high-school diploma. By 2020, nearly two out of every three jobs in the U.S. will require some post-secondary education or training.

When we look outside our classrooms to the larger community, what we see is the tale of two cities. Just as there is the bright, shiny, hopeful image of Orlando as a city that is transforming itself into high-tech hub, there’s another Orlando, where workers may spend a lifetime earning no more than the minimum wage. We lead the nation in a category that we shouldn’t be proud of: The Orlando metropolitan area has the lowest median wages in the nation ($29,781), among the top 50 metro areas—and, even worse, 25% of the jobs in the region pay $20,220 or less.

As we look forward to the next five years, we are focusing our workforce efforts on transforming our community—and helping the people at the lower rungs of our economy. Given the pervasive skill shortages across the country, employers are desperate to find cities where there’s a pipeline of ready, skilled workers. We believe that, in partnership with the local community, we can “skill up” our community and lead a community-wide effort to turn Central Florida into a region with a talented, skilled workforce ready for hire.

As we survey the landscape of the Central Florida economy, all indicators point to increased growth and job creation in Orange and Osceola Counties. Construction and healthcare are expected to lead the way for job growth during the next seven years. That provides Valencia College with the chance to train people in high-demand jobs and careers. We have an opportunity to help those who will become engineers and computer scientists or nurses and respiratory therapists, but also those others who want to transform their lives, but don’t see an avenue to accomplish that.

It’s no longer enough to open our doors, teach students, award them a two-year degree and wish them well as they graduate. We will do more—for those students who plan to directly enter the workforce when they graduate from Valencia, we will offer more opportunities for meaningful internships or part-time jobs while they’re in college, so that they can complete college with skills that make them more marketable. As other students seek a four-year degree, we will guide them on the best pathway to transfer to a selective university, where they can feel confident in their preparation to master any field or profession they may choose.

For those on the bottom rungs on the job ladder, we will find ways to help them achieve the next step, a more skilled job as they climb toward prosperity, by providing affordable, relevant, and rapid training programs.

Initiative 6: Accelerated Training

One of the most neglected segments of the workforce is the unskilled, unemployed or underemployed worker. And in Central Florida, where about 28% of adults over the age of 25 have only a high school diploma and where another 20% have taken some college classes but have no degree, we believe there’s a large population that can benefit from short-term training that will provide an entry point into good-paying jobs. Valencia College has already experienced great success in offering such training in two areas of the Central Florida economy with proven skill shortages: advanced manufacturing and construction. We plan to build on this success in additional areas.

Initiative 8: Work-Based Learning

This initiative will increase the number of students who receive credit for prior experience and will increase the number of Valencia students who participate in internships or some type of work-based experiences.

Initiative 7: Tech Express to Valencia

In 1973, nearly three out of four U.S. jobs required only a high school education or less. By 2020, two out of three jobs will require some postsecondary education or training.  Why? Because today’s jobs rely on computers and other technology, employers are demanding worker with some post-secondary education, preferably with technical certifications or degrees.

Training for these “middle skill jobs” is typically found at career and technical education centers, such as OCPS’s Orange Technical College and TECO in Osceola County. In the Central Florida region, technical centers currently serve more than 30,000 students each year. We believe that, by partnering with the technical centers and local K-12 school districts, we can help students expand on that technical education.

Through Tech Express, students who are taking technical classes in high school or after high school could transfer into Valencia programs and earn A.S. degrees that would enable them to raise their standard of living. In their first year after graduation, Valencia’s Associate in Science degree graduates earn an average annual salary of $41,000 (about 60% more than a high school graduate), according to the latest data from the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program.

Initiative 9: Knowledge and Innovation Economy

In Central Florida’s diverse workforce, we need not just doctors, lawyers and engineers, but the many support layers that make up a healthy, thriving economy. Employers need engineering technicians and computer programmers, nurses and cyber-security specialists, construction managers and digital media specialists. We need smart, highly-trained people to run today’s smart buildings and a legion of skilled health-care workers to staff our hospitals.