The complicated maze of programs and job-listing sites Florida job seekers must enter when looking for employment will hopefully soon become more navigable because of legislation signed into law today.
Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said workforce legislation signed into law today will transform the way Floridians get a job, pursue job training and prepare themselves for future careers.
“No longer will Floridians be trapped in the vestiges of an antiquated, one-size-fits-all workforce system that forces them into a bureaucratic maze of hoops to jump through,” said Sprowls. “We’ve worked with educators, employers, and industry leaders to provide a 21st century solution for job seekers. It shouldn’t be so hard to find work – and won’t be any longer.”
The Reimagining Education and Career Help Act (REACH) (HB 1507) is a massive 95-page bill which addresses issues from the local level to federal-level resources.
It is designed to establish a consumer-first workforce system that eliminates barriers created by siloed bureaucracies and meets Florida’s students, workers and job seekers where they are, to find long-lasting careers that meet their interests and goals. It is believed a central system will make it easier for consumers to access services and career planning, and register for job training.
Among many other things, the legislation establishes the REACH Office within the Executive Office of the Governor.
The Governor will appoint a Director to oversee operations of the REACH Office, which will serve as a dedicated expert on all things pertaining to Florida’s education to workforce pipeline, including oversight of the Florida Talent Development Council and coordination of state and federal workforce programs such as CareerSource and the DOE.
Notably, a key responsibility of the REACH Office is to improve access to federal workforce programs. HB 1507 calls on the REACH Office to utilize a “no-wrong-door entry strategy,” meaning that Floridians should not have to initiate contact with multiple departments or agencies to be connected with a workforce training or education program. The bill provides several directives to implement the strategy, such as a common intake form for a shared case management system.
The REACH Office will also develop an Internet-based “workforce opportunity portal” providing Floridians with a clear look at workforce services from the local to the federal level. The portal will contain labor market data and align in-demand jobs with required skills and credentials. By accessing this portal, Floridians would navigate through programs, career paths, wage data, and program quality.
The legislation sponsored by Representatives Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, and Lauren Melo, R-Naples, passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously and was signed into law today by Governor DeSantis.
Florida Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Mark Wilson said, “Florida is on a path to having America’s best workforce and with today’s signing of HB 1507, the Florida Chamber applauds Governor DeSantis, Representative Yarborough and Senator Albritton for their leadership in ensuring Florida creates a system-wide approach to improve equity and access for all Floridians to have the opportunity to achieve self-sufficiency and upward mobility. With less than 60 percent of Floridians ages 25-64 having a high-value post-secondary certificate, degree or training experience and less than 80 percent of Florida’s workforce having essential employability skills, the Florida Chamber has been laser focused on these issues as they impact our Florida 2030 Blueprint goals as we work to grow Florida from the 17th to the 10th largest economy in the world by 2030. The Florida Chamber looks forward to working with our partners at CareerSource, colleges and universities to help identify degree and nondegree credentials of value to prepare and upskill Florida’s workforce for 2030 and secure Florida’s future.”
The legislation stems from a federal audit that revealed inefficiencies in the state’s career resources.
The audit highlighted a dysfunctional unemployment claims website, which collapsed when hit by the onslaught of unemployment claims at the peak of the pandemic.
According to Forbes, Florida tied for 47th in the country for average weekly unemployment benefits and only offers 12 weeks of benefits compared to 26 weeks offered by most other states.
While legislatures on both side of the aisle enthusiastically supported this legislation, some like Florida Representative Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, an outspoken critic of Florida’s unemployment system, says more must be done. She has called for benefits to be increased and the time-period expanded.
Sprowls has previously argued he preferred to make it easier to connect unemployed workers with job opportunities and training rather than increase unemployment benefits.