Gov. Rick Scott proposes $289M for state workforce boards

Corey Perrine/Staff
Qualification papers wait to be filled out on a table Feb. 19, 2013, at Golden Gate Community Center in Golden Gate. Experience Works in partnership with Southwest Florida Works, was helping people 55+ at a recruitment fair, who have been out of work for a year or more, find jobs. Recently, Gov. Rick Scott has asked for $289.4 million for the state’s workforce boards. Employment places like Southwest Florida Works depend on state funding and grants to stay afloat and help the public secure jobs.

Photo by COREY PERRINE, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Corey Perrine/Staff Qualification papers wait to be filled out on a table Feb. 19, 2013, at Golden Gate Community Center in Golden Gate. Experience Works in partnership with Southwest Florida Works, was helping people 55+ at a recruitment fair, who have been out of work for a year or more, find jobs. Recently, Gov. Rick Scott has asked for $289.4 million for the state’s workforce boards. Employment places like Southwest Florida Works depend on state funding and grants to stay afloat and help the public secure jobs.

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Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott

— A continued focus on job growth in Florida means hundreds of millions of dollars may once again be funneled to workforce development boards across the state.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Naples has proposed giving more than $289 million to the state’s 24 regional workforce boards. Officials estimate the Southwest Florida Workforce Development Board, which covers Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties, will receive about $10 million of $289.4 million in fiscal 2013-14.

While that’s a lower total than some other boards across the state, the amount will be on par with previous years, said Joe Paterno, executive director of Southwest Florida Works.

Paterno said the board has enough money for the services it provides. The board, he said, also can roll over about $1 million from the previous year.

Paterno said the board likely will roll over money from this year to next, but said it’s too soon to say how much.

The state’s workforce boards are responsible for services that link job-seekers and businesses through programs like job placement, recruitment and skills training.

“This region is fairly unique,” said Jim Wall, the organization’s communications director. “When you look at our market, which includes Naples — which can rival Malibu or Rodeo Drive — then when you go to Clewiston or Immokalee it is among one of the most diverse in the state.”

In Southwest Florida, 19,129 people registered with the board in 2012. Of those who registered, the organization reported that 16,882 people entered employment information over the course of the year.

“We’re going to be biased, but I say we’re pretty important,” Paterno said. “We’re trying to match up the needs of the community with the needs of the business community.”

Those needs, Paterno said, vary from offering space for companies to holding recruiting sessions to giving folks looking for a job a place to use a computer.

But the organization doesn’t just help people looking for a job spruce up their resumes or make connections. The organization also offers financial assistance for applicants looking for additional training to better prepare them for the job market.

More than 660 people were enrolled in occupational skills training in 2012, according to an enrollment break down. Another 95 people were enrolled in on-the-job training, while 46 went through internships.

However, the number of people completing training programs has dipped in recent years, Paterno said.

We're trying to match up the needs of the community with the needs of the business community."

Joe Paterno, executive director of Southwest Florida Works

“It appears a lot of people are more interested in getting back to work,” he said.

Yolanda Flores, principal at Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology, said she hasn’t seen a dip in enrollment over the years. Instead, all but three programs are filled to capacity and that has been the case for years.

“Ever since the economy took a downturn, we’ve had that consistency,” she said.

Doran Oxender, principal of the Immokalee Technical Center, said his school continues to see increased enrollment each year it’s open. The school opened about four years ago, and about 85 percent of the students come from Collier County.

“We continue to expand enrollment,” he said.

Both schools work with the Southwest Florida workforce board to provide training to students, and both principals said the organization is essential to getting more people employed in Southwest Florida.

“I think they’re critically important,” he said. “We need to be offering quick, inexpensive training programs that either tool or retool today’s job force so they can get training that is economical and will lead directly to employment.”

Paterno said he’s hopeful the state Legislature will keep the funding at the levels proposed in Scott’s budget. State lawmakers will use the governor’s recommendations as a framework for the budget they adopt this spring.

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