New Bradenton Workforce Collaborative Launches with Knight Support

An emerging, two-county workforce collaborative will provide a wide range of education, training and support services with dual goals: helping prepare local residents for higher skilled jobs while providing businesses with the workers they need to remain competitive.

The collaborative, an intermediary between workers and potential employers, will focus on four industries – healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and technology. All provide career paths and family sustaining wages.

The collaborative announced today that it has received, among other commitments, a $1 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The grant will be used to launch the collaborative’s first strategic agenda item: responding to the growing need and opportunities for skilled healthcare workers in the Manatee Sarasota Region.

“This region’s employers and its working families face long-standing challenges – challenges that a short-term focus on the current economic crisis or another job placement program could not meet,” said Meredith Hector, Bradenton program director for Knight Foundation. “The collaborative provides a long-term, industry-specific intervention strategy that can help transform the local workforce and economy.”

According to a recent labor analysis conducted by the collaborative, healthcare and social assistance comprise the largest source of employment in Sarasota County (15%) and third-largest in Manatee County (10%). The pay growth rate, size, and average pay are expected to increase based on the analysis.

The grant will be leveraged with an additional $500,000 in funds from current and future members of the collaborative that include the following organizations: Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice; City of Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency (CCRA); Bradenton Downtown Development Authority; Suncoast Workforce Board; Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce; local hospitals; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. As a next step, the collaborative will be reaching out to the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a 5-year, $30 million national effort designed to foster and share similar activities in other U.S. regions.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice will invest $150,000 and will also oversee the fiscal operations of the collaborative. “This is a great opportunity for organizations in both counties to work together on a significant issue: creating high paying jobs,” said Mark Pritchett, vice president for community investment for Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, and co-chair of the collaborative.

“This is just the beginning,” said Sherod Halliburton, executive director of the City of Bradenton CCRA, and co-chair of the collaborative. “We are inviting investment, partnerships, and insights because there is so much to accomplish.” The CCRA, a $200,000 funder, will help bolster resource management for the collaborative. The Bradenton Downtown Development Authority also contributed $200,000.

The Community Briefing was hosted by the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce at the Holiday Inn Sarasota Bradenton Airport, 8009 15th Street East, Sarasota, Florida.

About the Manatee Sarasota Workforce Funders Collaborative

The Collaborative is dedicated to moving low-wage workers into higher-paying jobs while providing employers with the skilled employees they need. This “dual customer” approach is critical to ensuring employers have access to qualified employees, working residents earn family-sustaining wages, and the region is both economically sustainable and competitive.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change. For more, visit

About the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice

Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice builds strong communities through leadership, partnership, and endowed philanthropy. A public charity committed to improving the quality of life in the communities it serves, it is the largest community foundation in Florida with assets of approximately $200 million. The Foundation was founded in late 1995 and has awarded $92 million in grants in the areas of arts and culture, health and human services, education, civic affairs, and the environment. The Board of the Foundation envisions a region known for endowed philanthropy, a vital nonprofit community, and the ability to address emerging issues. For more information about the Foundation, visit

About the City of Bradenton Central Community Redevelopment Agency

The Central Community Redevelopment Agency is charged with improving the physical, social and economic conditions of the central and east neighborhoods in the City of Bradenton. A portion of taxes derived from properties in the district is used by the Central CRA board to make improvements within the district in the form of infrastructure, job creation and development, rehabilitation of homes and properties and attracting businesses to move within the district’s boundaries. The City created the Central CRA in 2001.

About The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce is a nearly 1,800-member, not-for-profit organization that exists to maximize its members’ success, the community’s competitiveness, and the area’s economic strength. Incorporated in 1920, it continues to grow at a rapid pace to serve the educational, social, governmental, and economic and leadership development needs of the greater Sarasota area and is the bridge that links businesses, organizations and residents together with innovative programs that strengthen long-term economic vitality, business success, job creation and quality of life.

Manatee Sarasota Workforce Funders Collaborative secures $1.5M

A new work force collaborative in Manatee and Sarasota counties has received a $1 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and additional funding to launch programs.

The Manatee Sarasota Workforce Funders Collaborative focuses on moving low-wage workers into higher-paying jobs while providing businesses with skilled employees, a release said.

The collaborative is concentrating on four industries – health care, manufacturing, transportation and technology – because they provide career paths and family-sustaining wages.

The grant will be used to launch programs to provide skilled health care workers in Manatee and Sarasota counties. It will be leveraged by $500,000 from collaborative members, the release said.

Members include Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, Bradenton’s Central Community Redevelopment Agency, Suncoast Workforce Board, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, local hospitals and the Knight Foundation. Gulf Coast Community Foundation will oversee the fiscal operations of the collaborative.

Read more: Manatee Sarasota Workforce Funders Collaborative secures $1.5M – Tampa Bay Business Journal

New 2-County Workforce Funders Collaborative will Address Employer and Worker Needs

By Meredith Hector, program director for Bradenton

Residents of Manatee and Sarasota counties feel the painful effects of the recession daily. It won’t surprise many to know that according to the Brookings Institution’s Metro Monitor, of the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, Bradenton-Sarasota is the second-worst-performing in terms of employment, wages, economic output, home prices, and foreclosures (neighboring Tampa is the third worst).

While the current economic situation is bleak, many believe it is cyclical and will stabilize. But what about the region’s ongoing workforce challenges? This area faces a dual dilemma – businesses with long-term shortages of skilled workers and low-skilled individuals who lack the necessary training to secure jobs with family-sustaining wages.

A new collaborative of public and private funders has emerged over the past year to confront those challenges head on. The Manatee Sarasota Workforce Funders Collaborative, or MSWFC as it is currently known, is an entrepreneurial alliance composed of businesses, city and county governments, educational institutions, foundations and community organizations that will strengthen and accelerate regional workforce development. It is pooling nearly $2.5 million of local, state and national funds. Those monies will be a source of flexible capital, in the form of targeted grants, for innovative projects that:

  • Provide basic skills courses and occupational training to workers in health-care, manufacturing, technology and transportation careers;
  • Develop employer-based career pathways and
  • Help partner organizations implement career-coaching programs.

MSWFC aims to:

  • Support the movement of at least 300 people into promising, career-oriented jobs
  • Support at least 10 area employers in their efforts to train and advance employees into mid-skill-level jobs
  • Serve as a regional knowledge resource – conducting research and impact assessments and publishing findings that inform regional workforce strategies
  • Stimulate greater regional planning and cooperation

MSWFC is not simply a job placement program. This is an opportunity to move low-wage individuals into careers with a living wage. It is a long-term, industry-specific intervention strategy. The role of this collaborative is to serve as a workforce intermediary – organizing key stakeholders and local resources to help workers gain the skills they need and to give employers access to the skilled labor they need. There is evidence from an existing funders collaborative in Boston (the SkillWorks partnership) that program participants there earn an average $4 an hour more than their pre-enrollment wages.