BUSINESS OBSERVER: Southwest Florida college working to bridge the skills gap

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Hodges University is developing something any employer should covet: A program that teaches foundational — and soft — skills to a variety of employees.

John Meyer considers himself the poster boy for Hodges University. He left college in New Jersey two credits shy of graduation to become an automotive technician.

After moving to Southwest Florida and hitting the advancement ceiling by age 33, he enrolled at Hodges — then called International College — to complete his bachelor’s in accounting in 1999, and a master’s in finance and marketing in 2000, all while getting grease under his fingernails during the day.

Nearly two decades later, Meyer is president of Hodges University. The school, with locations in Fort Myers and Naples, focuses on degree completion — perfectly tracking Meyer’s educational stages.

Noted for his expertise in business and economics, Meyer, previously dean of the School of Business and Technology at Florida SouthWestern State College, was named president in December 2017. Now he’s guiding Hodges in a new direction. That includes an emphasis on developing foundational skills, which he says form a wide crevice between an employee’s technical skills and the ability to function effectively in the workplace.

Meyer, toward that goal, is spearheading the launch of a professional credential program. Dubbed the Professional Effectiveness Certificate program, it’s for companies of any size to offer employees training in foundational (or soft, in some cases) skills gaps surveys show are in demand. These include adaptability, business understanding, communication, customer service, judgment, organization, proactivity and being a team player.

The PEC program is customizable, portable and adaptable to specific industry needs.

“Workforce development is an area I am very passionate about, and I believe very firmly that it’s almost a dirty word sometimes,” says Meyer. “It conjures images of greasy fingernails, dirty uniforms, low wages and long hours, but really nothing could be further from the truth. Workforce means any kind of a job that requires any skills to do, all the way up to medical doctors and CPAs or lawyers. It’s all workforce.”

Although technical education has advanced, Meyer says imparting practical knowledge has failed to keep pace. Basic societal behavioral training necessary for interaction between co-workers and with customers once inherent by the time students graduate high school is now lacking, and it manifests itself on the manufacturing floor, in the office and in customer-facing occupations, exacerbating an already tight labor market.

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WGCU Interview: Exploring the Current State of Southwest Florida’s Workforce

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On today’s show, we’re going to dig into the 6th annual Southwest Florida Workforce study, conducted annually by Workforce Now, that’s a research initiative that studies the regional workforce. It’s comprised of researchers from Florida Gulf Coast UniversityHodges University, and Florida SouthWestern State College. The Workforce Study provides an overview of key information about local industries, occupations, employments gaps and projected job growth. It looks at things like which Southwest Florida occupations have the largest gaps between the number of workers demanded by employers and the available supply in the labor market? We’re joined today by two of the researchers behind the study: Dr. Christopher Westley is Professor of Economics, and Director, Regional Economic Research Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University, and Dr. Aysegul Timur is dean of the Johnson School of Business at Hodges University.

Click PLAY above to listen to the interview.

NEWS-PRESS: What workers do Southwest Florida’s employers need the most? Not nurses.

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While nurses will always be needed in Southwest Florida, they’re not as much needed by local employers as they were a year or two ago.

For the first time in three years, nurses and other health care professionals aren’t included in the top 10 list of occupations showing the largest employment gaps — where there are more jobs than workers.

That is just one of the more interesting findings from an annual study conducted by Workforce Now, a research initiative that involves Florida Gulf Coast University, Hodges University and Florida SouthWestern State College.

So what are the occupations with the largest gaps now? Local employers need everything from retail supervisors to landscapers to maids.

Here’s the top 10 list:

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UNMAZE.ME: Free online course on “Building a College Resume”

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As parents and students begin navigating the high school to college process, an important piece often overlooked in the college admission process, is the college resume. We would not enter into a job application without it, and applying to college is no different! A college resume is essential in receiving quality recommendation letters, applying for colleges and scholarships, and ensuring your academic and extra-curricular activities are showcased in your application.

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