“Workforce is a major issue I am very concerned about and it is impacting my business.”
Business leaders throughout Flagler County can be overheard saying this almost daily. Before the pandemic, job creators shared their concerns about the quality of the labor force, but it was commonly thought that our region’s low unemployment rate and high demand for quality employees may have been the culprit.
Now, as our economy begins to return to normal, business leaders have found that they are not only fighting to find qualified employees, but that some employees remain on the sidelines despite jobs being available to them. Why? In part, because of the federal government COVID-19 stimulus, higher unemployment payouts and a revised unemployment requirement that no longer requires those receiving unemployment benefits to actively look for work.
Data the Palm Coast-Flagler Regional Chamber of Commerce has analyzed supports what business leaders are saying. Consider that Flagler County has lost nearly 1,700 jobs in the past 12 months due to the impact from COVID-19. That’s approximately 4% of all jobs in Flagler County.
Furthermore, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Flagler’s workforce has declined by approximately 900 people. That’s the equivalent of 2% of our workforce; the third highest rate of Atlantic coastal Florida counties (not including South Florida).
What have Flagler’s business leaders been doing in response to the above? The two most popular options seem to be importing talent from outside of the county or delaying filling the position until the talent can be located, or created, locally. Of course, this isn’t the best plan to solve the problem, but business leaders are doing the best with what they have as we all recover from a pandemic.
The good news is Flagler County has several bright spots to look forward to. Later this year, both Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida will open campuses in the Palm Coast Town Center. Add to that the $4 million renovation happening at the Palm Coast Campus of Daytona State College, and you have an exceptional opportunity for success. Meanwhile, our state leaders are reviewing our workforce development and career and technical education programs to make sure they are delivering the results needed to help shepherd our economy to the next level.
Education seems to be the “secret sauce” for so many Florida communities that grow strategically and successfully. That’s why we focused on workforce development in this issue of Evolve Magazine. As outlined above, our region is about to embark on a major effort to substantially increase our ability to attract and retain talent. But it’s up to all of us to make sure this effort is a success.
Greg Blosé, II
Palm Coast-Flagler Regional Chamber