Florida’s economy isn’t back to pre-recession peak levels, but it’s growing. That’s what the Blue Ribbon Task Force on State Higher Education Reform heard Monday as the panel looks for ways to reform the State University System.
Panel members want to know what the job market will look like in the coming years and which industries may have worker shortages soon.
Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislative Office of Economic and Demographic Research, looked at trends for the state through 2030. For now, she said Florida is among a handful of states that hasn’t recovered from the recession.
“The great recession was a little bit deeper, a little bit longer, a little bit tougher on Florida than what we actually even thought originally,” said Baker. “It’ll take at least another two years before we start feeling like the economy is more ‘normal.'”
Data shows Florida is still about 750,000 jobs shy of where it was during the boom years leading up to the recession. Floridians also earn less money than the national average, in part, because of the high number of workers in the typically low-paying leisure and hospitality sector.
Baker offered some strategies for moving forward:
- Attract migration from other states and countries that have greater youth populations. Baker said this would be a “relief valve” for dealing with worker shortages.
- Design incentive programs to keep workers in the workforce longer.
- Retain Florida graduates as part of the state’s workforce. Data shows that within a year of graduation, more than a third of Florida’s college grads are not working in Florida.
- Develop and foster age-sensitive technologies and affordable healthcare services.
Gov. Rick Scott wants Florida to produce more STEM graduates – with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math – who will lure more high-paying industries to the state.
He instructed the task force to review efforts by Florida universities to achieve national preeminence as well as academic and research excellence. He wants ideas for legislation to help advance higher education.
The order says: “The vision of the Task Force shall be to advance the State University System’s Constitutional charge to operate, regulate, control, and be fully responsible for the management of the whole university system. The mission of the Task Force will be to review and make recommendations to the Governor and state policy makers to fulfill this vision.”
The blue ribbon panel will compile recommendations for Gov. Scott and legislative leaders by mid-November.