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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 27, 2018 4 years ago

Workforce: What's next

Technology, Generation Z and solving a labor shortage

When the Tampa Bay Partnership released a regional competitiveness report last November, education was identified as an area in dire need of improvement. That's because when compared to 19 other similarly sized U.S. metro areas, the Tampa Bay region ranked near or at the bottom in several categories related to educational attainment.

USF President Judy Genshaft, at podium, announcing the university's expanded partnership with tech talent development firm Revature. Courtesy photo.

One category where the region does better, however, is people who obtain degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). According to the report, nearly 32 out of every 10,000 residents has obtained at least an associate’s degree in a STEM-related field.

But in an interesting twist, a lot of those graduates don’t have the most up-to-date skills to compete for high-paying jobs in areas such as software engineering in high demand by the region’s rapidly developing tech sector. That skills gap prompted the University of South Florida to partner with Revature, a Reston, Va.-based company that specializes in tech talent development.

"Higher ed is only producing so many computer science majors," says Joe Vacca, Revature's chief marketing officer. 

Revature Chief Marketing Officer Joe Vacca. Courtesy photo.

USF and Revature first teamed up in 2016, when the university began to send recent graduates to Virginia for an immersive, 12-week coding course. That arrangement proved to be a big hit, with nearly 150 participants landing good new jobs as a result.

In January, USF announced a major expansion of its partnership with Revature, which plans to invest $20 million to train and hire as many as 1,300 people at USF. The no-cost training programs will be available to college graduates from across the State University System of Florida, not just USF. 

Successful applicants will spend three to four months training to be software engineers before being placed in full-time jobs as contractors, says Vacca. They will remain employees of Revature for up to two years, which is the minimum commitment to the program. Revature, in turn, recoups its investment from consulting fees it charges to the companies that successfully bring aboard graduates of the program. 

"It's like a modern-day apprenticeship," Vacca says. "We are creating enterprise-ready software engineers." 

— Brian Hartz


A nursing shortage has been a much-talked-about issue nationally, and it’s hit some area hospitals.

Officials at a several of institutions around the region say a varied and aggressive approach to recruiting and retaining is key. And some of the steps taken could work at any business — not just for nurses. 

Strategies for recruiting and retaining nurses at some of the area's biggest hospital systems include: 

• Lakeland Regional Health: Teams of 10 to 15 employees gather daily in a huddle for 10 minutes to talk about goals and action plans. Hospital officials believe the daily huddles help with nurse retention by giving them a voice and sense of pride from being empowered to make improvements.  

• Sarasota Memorial Hospital: The hospital system has hired more than 450 nurses since its 2016 fiscal year. "We put a very aggressive recruitment strategy in place,” says Jean Lucas, associate chief nursing officer at SMH.

The challenge for SMH to hire and retain runs deep too, with both the system’s significant growth and impending nurse retirements, Lucas says.

Jean Lucas is the associate chief nursing officer at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

The nursing shortage should have happened several years ago, she says, but was delayed by the recession. During those years, there were fewer opportunities for nurses and less movement in the occupation. “You saw people not relocating as much for jobs, and you saw people not retiring who would otherwise retire,” Lucas says.

After the recession, things started to change. Competition for nurses increased. “We’re competing around the state and at certain times around the country for positions,” she says. “We got a leadership group together along with human resources, and we really looked at how competitive we were in the marketplace.”

Out of that, Sarasota Memorial developed a recruiting plan and examined natural migration trends to determine target areas of the country for recruiting nurses. Says Lucas: “We really set some steep goals to make sure we were staying on top of it.”

• Tampa General Hospital: A pair of programs has shielded the giant hospital against the industry shortage, spokesman John Dunn says. One is its clinical ladder program that rewards nurses for participating in conferences, mentoring and earning certificates or degrees. The other is a prepaid tuition program offered to nurses who want to take additional classes.

There’s also a certain draw to the hospital — a level I trauma center. “We treat some of the sickest patients around, so a lot of nurses want to be able to get that kind of experience,” Dunn says.

Kristy Rigot is the system director of recruitment and retention for Lee Health.

• Lee Health: The health system, amid a large expansion, uses sourcing recruiters to build nursing candidate pipelines through social media, search engine optimization, meet-and-greet events and virtual career fairs. “If we’re recruiting nationally, we have to make it as easy as possible for people to get to know us,” says Kristy Rigot, system director of recruitment and retention. 

“We build our strategies around vacancies,” Rigot says, and it can be more challenging to fill open positions for certain kinds of nursing positions. “It depends on the specialty.”

Lee Health gets a lot of interest in particular from people in the Midwest, Rigot adds. Recruiters have even traveled to Detroit to host meet-and-greets. Prior to the event, they send direct mail pieces to nurses who live in the surrounding area. “We try to pick when it’s snowing,” Rigot says. Then the appeal is easy — come to the sunshine.

— Grier Ferguson


While many employers focus on millienals for hiring — for food good reason — there’s another generation of employees to watch out for: Generation z.

This cohort is loosely defined as people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. That means the first wave of Gen Z are in college and close to entering the workforce. Monnie Wertz, assistant vice president for operations and planning at the University of Tampa, dissected Generation Z for a room full of Tampa-area hiring executives at a conference earlier this year.

Wertz, at the Jan. 5 event held at the University of Tampa campus, says the research and studies into Generation Z is ongoing, and in many cases is somewhat inconclusive so far. That carries to the name — as some have suggested alternatives, such as iGen, Homelanders or the Last Generation. Other highlights of Wertz’s presentation include:

• Some of the influences that shape Generation Z include: widely-publicized violence; total saturation of the smart phone; pragmatism; diversity; growing up even more slowly;

• On technology they have attachment overload, including reduction in time with actual people; a high focus on “chasing likes,” and avoiding social media FOMO — fear of missing out; reduction in sleep times; alternative realities that contribute to loneliness, anxiety and depression;

• They are conscious of being sold, with an emphasis on “authenticity” in all areas;

• Practical about changing wants for needs;

• A possible connection to the Greatest Generation with several similarities. Both came of age in severe recessions/depressions; both grew up during wars (World War II and the War on Terror) and; both have an optimistic bent toward the world; and

• Generation Z, says Wertz, is less likely to tolerate bigotry and less likely to desire homogenous environments.

— Mark Gordon

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