Writer: Liz Palmer
4 min read September 2022 — September is Workforce Development Month in Florida, and the war for talent across industries wages on. Jacksonville was recognized as a top city for job seekers this year but that hasn’t necessarily balanced supply and demand. Employees still have the leverage and regional leaders told Invest: they continue to navigate a challenging market.
Tourism and hospitality, for example, have struggled to remain fully staffed despite travelers eager to be taking trips again. “The great news is that tourism is up fantastically,” said Michael Corrigan, president and CEO of Visit Jacksonville. “The bad news is that we may not have enough people to welcome our visitors.”
Corrigan said Jacksonville’s tourism engine carries a lot of weight, annually contributing $3.9 billion and 55,000 jobs. He’s focused on educating job seekers on the opportunities for career advancement through tourism and hospitality. As a member of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Northeast Florida Chapter, his network is active in academic spaces. “We’re starting to increase our outreach with our local school system,” Corrigan said. “College isn’t necessarily the journey for everyone and hospitality industry jobs are absolutely for those coming out of high school. We should be a better resource for the school system and the school system is an additional resource for us to generate jobs.”
Healthcare has not fared much better than the tourism industry, a report sharing that the United States needs at least 275,000 more nurses before 2030. President and CEO of HCA Florida Memorial Hospital Bradley Talbert said the exit of “qualified and experienced healthcare professionals” has left considerable shortages in specialty care settings, such as intensive care units, emergency rooms and operating rooms.
To address the shortage, Talbert says he works with the local higher education institutions in the MSA to recruit talent, mentioning the June announcement of a $4 million investment with the University of North Florida to build a simulation training center for students called the HCA Healthcare Center for Clinical Advancement. “Fortunately, our staff will also be able to use the facility and keep up with the latest trends in clinical treatments,” Talbert said. HCA Florida Memorial Hospital is also routinely reevaluating compensation, monitoring work-life balance, benefits and scheduling. Talbert says that as of August 2022, nurse compensation has been adjusted three times this year to account for market demands.
For the electrical market, the electrician shortage is a result of more students preferring four-year undergraduate degrees instead of a trade, an increase in utilities needs and droves of workers going into retirement. David Yencarelli, COO of American Electrical Contracting, took matters into his own hands with the American Electrical Academy to add more skilled electricians to the labor pool, and Miller Electric Company CEO Henry Brown says employee experience is paramount. “The biggest factor for us is focusing on being an employer of choice, providing a great environment for our employees, and making sure that they have everything they need to be successful, providing development opportunities and future growth opportunities,” he said. “We want to make sure our company is a place where people in our industry and our communities want to work.”
Even educators are challenged, with public schools struggling to recruit and retain teachers and other staff. The Bolles School, an independent pre-K-12 school in Jacksonville, has prioritized being a desirable place to work. “My human resources team and financial team have worked hard to push salaries as benefits to make them competitive,” said President and Head of School Tyler Hodges. “We have worked hard to offer tuition assistance and health benefits that keep great people at our school.”
The region’s unemployment rate fell to 2.8% in August, according to an announcement by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity last week – a drop from 4.1% in the year-earlier period.