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Bills that would overhaul Florida's workforce system pass in House

The state's workforce system currently is made up of CareerSource Florida, the Department of Economic Opportunity and local boards.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Two bills that would overhaul Florida’s workforce system passed unanimously in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Right now, Florida’s workforce system is made up of CareerSource Florida, the Department of Economic Opportunity and 24 local workforce development boards that provide services to employers and job seekers.

“What our workforce bills do is blow that system up and begin again,” Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls told 10 Tampa Bay. “Everyone’s doing workforce, so therefore, nobody’s doing it. You have the Department of Education who does some. You have the Department of Economic Opportunity who does some. You have the Department of Children and Families. You know what they’re not doing? They’re not working together. So, we have a disjointed, fragmented, unworkable, broken workforce system.”

RELATED: Audit: Errors in Florida's unemployment system were known for years, never resolved

The Consumer-First Workforce Bill, HB 1505, would require the Department of Education and Department of Children and Families, in consultation with the Department of Economic Opportunity, to create a single “consumer-first workforce system.”

That streamlined system would allow people to access services from multiple agencies through one site.

“Instead of going to 30 different websites that may or may not help you, you’re going to go to one place. It’s a one-front-door kind of strategy. So that whether you’re applying for unemployment, whether you’re looking for a job, or trying to figure out where you go for a credentialing, or you need some counseling to figure out what that next step is for you -- all of those things can be done in one place,” said Sprowls, a Republican from Palm Harbor.

The bill would also create a new digital credential program to help post-secondary students get “skill badges” as they complete certain general education courses. Those badges would signal their levels of training to potential employers.

The bill also aims to improve accountability, requiring training providers for apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs to submit data to demonstrate program performance.

Any contract related to implementing the new system would also have to be performance-based.

The Reimagining Education and Career Help (REACH) Act, HB 1507, would create a new REACH Office within the governor’s office to coordinate access points to education and career help.

The bill would authorize the governor to seek federal waivers to create greater flexibility to create a new streamlined workforce system.

“We’re asking them to remove the federal strings that limit our ability to be innovative and do this well,” Sprowls said.

A “no-wrong-door” strategy would allow Floridians to access services from any workforce partner with a common intake form and case management system.

An online “opportunity portal” would provide job seekers access to information about in-demand jobs, the skills they need for those jobs, how to get those skills and more.

It would also seek to improve accountability by creating higher standards for training providers, adding term limits for appointed local workforce board members, and create uniform performance expectations and public letter grades for each local workforce board.

The bill also creates a “Money-Back Guarantee Program” that would require each school district and Florida College System institution to refund tuition to students who can’t find a job within six months of completing select programs.

“I’ve long been a believer that we’ve kind of played lip service to workforce education. We’ve focused on K-12. We’ve done a good job in focusing on higher education. But those people, the large swath of people that are in the middle between K-12 and higher ed, you know, our people who keep our economy humming, who work in small business, who work in tech trades, those people need our intention. They need our investment,” Sprowls said.

In January, the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration published a report laying out dozens of compliance issues within the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

These two House bills were filed less than two months later.

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