Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs kicked off 2017 with the fifth annual Orange County Economic Summit. The Summit presents a gauge of the current economic climate and forecast.
Dr. Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Institute for Economic Competitiveness and chair of the Orlando EDC’s Orlando Economic Forum, presented a forecast for the local, state and national economy in 2017.
“In Central Florida, there’s growth in all sectors. The pace of growth, compared to the state-wide averages, is much stronger,” Snaith said during his presentation. “We’re growing faster than the state, than the national economy and not by a little bit, but by a great amount.”As Orlando’s economy grows, the need for a diverse and highly educated workforce becomes increasingly critical for the region. In a panel focused on workforce development, key regional leaders discussed programs and initiatives to meet the present and future demand for a qualified labor force in Central Florida. The panelists included Barbara Jenkins, Ed.D., superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, Thad Seymour, Ph.D., vice provost for UCF Downtown, Sanford “Sandy” Shugart, Ph.D., president of Valencia College and Crystal Sircy, executive vice president of the Orlando Economic Development Commission. Pam Nabors, president and CEO of CareerSource Central Florida moderated the panel.
“Workforce, hands down, is the most important factor of economic development,” Crystal Sircy said. “CEOs repeatedly tell us that workforce development and the talent pool today, and in the future, is vital to their success.” Sircy added that businesses are attracted to a diverse workforce and a ready talent pipeline.
Dr. Sugart discussed Valencia Colleges’ expansion of technical certifications to meet the need for both job seekers and employers looking for specifically technical proficiency. Dr. Jenkins shared Orange County Public Schools’ commitment to preparing students for post higher education and future careers through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.
Dr. Seymour discussed the strategic advantage that Orlando’s higher education community has over other regions nationwide. The region’s cohesive community allows organizations to strategically foster the required talent needed by growing industry sectors.
“Thanks to changing technologies and emerging industries, we really need to create a pipeline of workers who are skilled in a wide variety of specialty and high-tech areas. From under-employed workers seeking new skills to high-school-aged and entry-level workers, we are committed to helping everyone gain access to job training, in order to develop a marketable workforce skill.” Mayor Jacobs said.
Following the 2017 Economic Summit, Orange County hosted the second Florida TechMatch, an invitation-only event that gives local technology companies the chance to build relationships with national industry leaders.