In Tough Economy, CareerEdge Charts 159 New Jobs, 84 Worker Raises

MANATEE/SARASOTA, FL (September 15, 2011) – Amid lingering double-digit unemployment and the recurring threat of a double-dip recession, there is a bright spot in the Sarasota-Manatee region.

CareerEdge, a nonprofit workforce-development initiative, is helping local employers create and fill real jobs with skilled workers. It is helping incumbent workers in the healthcare sector gain new skills, and the pay raises that come with them. And it is helping the unemployed secure jobs at growing manufacturing businesses like PGT Industries. CareerEdge is a model for the future of workforce development in Florida, say its financial backers, who have new data to prove its mettle.

CareerEdge—more formally, the CareerEdge Funders Collaborative Manatee-Sarasota—is an innovative workforce-development initiative funded by a growing group of foundations, local government entities, and businesses. The funders want to transform the model for workforce development in Manatee and Sarasota counties, so that it more effectively fuels economic growth in the two-county region. The organization is part of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, a network of 31 such collaboratives around the country, whose flexible model empowers them to focus on the specific industry sectors and worker skills that are most important to their own local economies.

“So far, the network of National Fund sites has been extremely successful in helping thousands of workers and jobseekers advance toward careers with family-sustaining wages,” said Mireya Eavey, executive director of CareerEdge. “And we have new evaluation data that shows CareerEdge has already surpassed annual projections.”

Data through the first six months of 2011 show CareerEdge trained 833 incumbent workers and jobseekers, providing them with nearly 2,000 educational or industry credentials. That training has produced real jobs and wage increases: 159 individuals moved from the rolls of the unemployed to positions with local manufacturers. An additional 177 local jobs were saved, as employees received skills training required to stay in their positions. Eighty-four workers have received promotions or wage increases.

What has made CareerEdge different from existing workforce development efforts is how it contracts with employers, to ensure that real jobs and promotions await individuals who receive training. “We go directly to employers like PGT and Blake Medical Center and find out what they need in their labor force to grow,” said Eavey. “Then we help them provide the specific training for current workers or potential new hires to fill those needs. As incumbent workers move up the career ladder, trained newcomers can fill the open positions.”

CareerEdge targets industry sectors identified through commissioned research as having the greatest growth potential in revenues and wages. To date, the collaborative has secured $3.9 million for customized workforce training, technical assistance for employers, skills training for the unemployed, and public policy advocacy and discourse.

Gulf Coast Community Foundation, which cochairs the CareerEdge investors committee and handles its fiscal operations, recently granted an additional $300,000 to CareerEdge, bringing Gulf Coast’s total grant investment to $450,000. The new funding targets healthcare training, so CareerEdge can direct other investors’ funding toward its continued expansion into manufacturing.

“Despite the current unemployment rate, what many people do not realize is that we still have a shortage of skilled workers trained for specific jobs that employers need to grow,” said Mark Pritchett, senior vice president for community investment at Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “CareerEdge addresses that by working directly with employers in our targeted growth industries. Everyone has skin in the game—the funders, the employers, and the workers—to make the model successful.”