Calling it an opportunity to connect businesses and university leaders, Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit in Orlando on Wednesday morning.
The goal, Scott told a room of about 350 university, college and business leaders, is to “challenge everything we’re doing.”
“This is going to be a fun two days,” he said.
The two-day summit aims to connect Florida’s business leaders with university and college officials about how to best prepare students for the workforce. The line-up includes panel discussions on college affordability personnel management and personnel management; and presentations by Senate President Andy Gardiner, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and a panel of football coaches from across the state.
Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, kicked off the day, laying out the state of Florida’s workforce. Proctor, who has been on the job since the beginning of the year, said the summit is an opportunity to build relationships to make sure the lessons learned at the summit will “turn into something real, into something tangible.”
“Take this as a call to action, to do something today, right here, right now,” she said. “Take an active role, take advantage of a unique opportunity.”
Since 2010, Proctor said the private sector has created more than 1.1 million jobs. The employment rate, she said, has dropped considerably and is now at an eight-year low. Those milestones mean Florida could be a hotspot for graduates to enter the workforce.
“We want Florida to be the best state in the nation for university and college graduates to get a job, because we know the first step for individuals and a family is a great education,” she said.
Proctor urged the business community to use this summit as a chance to connect with universities and colleges to create new opportunities for Florida students. She said whether it is through internships or full-time jobs, the state wants Florida companies “to hire Florida graduates.”
“Take the time to make a connection,” she said. “We want to make sure your company, and graduates, are ready for tomorrow.”
Scott spoke for about 5 minutes Wednesday morning, setting the stage for the next two days. The Naples Republican is scheduled to speak later in the afternoon. The Associated Press reported that Scott will call for several changes designed to help students get out of school sooner.