By staff writer

February 2019

As the Greater Orlando area continues to grow its economy and lower the unemployment rate, companies in several sectors are having a hard time finding qualified candidates to fill their job openings. The workforce-skills gap — or the gap between the skills a workforce offers and the needed skills that will help local businesses grow — has been widening across various industries, but particularly in construction, accounting and hospitality. It is not about the quantity of resumes businesses receive but about the quality and level of skills the candidates provide.

In a recent conversation with Invest: Orlando, Jed Grennan, founding partner of Grennan Fender CPA & Advisors, said that finding quality talent and keeping it is one of the biggest challenges facing the accounting sector. There is a scarcity that is making it hard to recruit, retain and reward top-quality people,” he said. “To be the firm of choice, we have to create a more attractive office environment that provides our employees with the flexibility, challenges and continued growth opportunities they are looking for.”

A recent report from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity revealed that Orange County’s unemployment rate was 2.9 percent in December 2018, which is the third lowest unemployment rate in the state. The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area saw the largest nonagricultural employment gains, with 51,300 jobs added, or 4 percent growth.

“Because our economy and employment market is so strong, this challenge expands beyond real estate,” H. Bradley Peterson, senior managing director & co-head of HFF Orlando Office, told Invest:. “It is difficult to hire strong employees because there is a lot of demand for new talent across different sectors.”

Since the 2007 recession, workers who were forced to find jobs in different industries never returned to their previous sectors, and that is one of the reasons employers in industries like construction are struggling with finding quality craftspeople. The numerous opportunities in the Orlando area aggravate the situation because employees have more options to choose from.

“We are recruiting outside of the metro area and relocating from other markets,” Peterson said. “Across the country most people are aware of how strong Orlando is, so employees are excited to move here because they feel the future is very bright and there are a lot of growth opportunities.”

Chambers of commerce, associations and the local government are developing different strategies to support businesses in the area as they combat this issue. For example, to provide support for their members, the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce launched a pilot program to identify talented professionals — mostly women who have stayed home to raise families but hold impressive degrees.

“Our program helps them present back to the workplace and assists them in finding work again. Through this pilot return-to-work program we placed 83 percent of the participating women within six months in local and global companies. We are very excited to have the ability to furnish our members with a talent base of people who are reliable and have the skills and talents they are looking for,” Betsy Gardner Eckbert, president and CEO of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, told Invest:.

To attend to the challenges in the lack of workforce that some industries are facing, Orange County’s public schools and the Orange Technical College have a training program targeting various in-demand industries such as construction, manufacturing and digital media/ information technology in order to make certain that there is a skilled workforce available to meet the job demand.

A report from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) showed that unfilled jobs and the lack of qualified applicants continues to be a primary concern for businesses, with job openings setting a record high and job creation plans strengthening by December 2018. The report also stated that 60 percent of the companies surveyed reported hiring or trying to hire, but 54 percent of those cited few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. This underscores how important it is for companies to include innovative recruiting and retention tools, as well as flexible environments and positive company culture, to find and keep their employees.

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:

Grennan Fender CPA and Advisors: https://orlandoaccounting.com/

HFF Orlando: https://www.hfflp.com/locations/orlando.html

Winter Park Chamber of Commerce: https://winterpark.org/