Economic growth and workforce development are two intertwined elements that significantly shape the future of St. Pete and the greater Tampa Bay region. These factors influence the overall well-being and prosperity of individuals, communities, and businesses alike, including the pressing issue of the affordable housing crisis. Addressing this challenge requires a multifaceted approach, with workforce development crucial. 

By investing in upskilling and creating new pathways to higher-paying jobs, St. Pete residents can achieve financial stability more quickly, allowing them to afford better housing options and improve their overall quality of life. Focusing on in-demand skills and industries, workforce development programs not only empower individuals but also contribute to building stronger, more resilient communities. Through access to quality education and training, we can break the cycle of poverty and pave the way for a brighter future for those affected by the affordable housing crisis in St. Pete and the greater Tampa Bay region.

Workforce and Economic Development: The Foundation of Sustainable Growth

Workforce development focuses on improving the skills and knowledge of individuals to prepare them for the job market so individuals can achieve higher paying, meaningful careers. This process encompasses various activities, such as education, training, and job placement services. A skilled workforce is essential for St. Pete to thrive, innovate, and compete in the global market. Economic development, on the other hand, aims to create a favorable environment for businesses to grow and prosper through upskilling our workforce, the creation of new jobs, attraching businesses to St. Pete, and improving the overall quality of life in our region. Economic development initiatives can directly support workforce development by:

  1. Investing in education: Ensuring access to quality education and training programs equips individuals with the skills needed to succeed in the job market.
  2. Creating job opportunities: By attracting new businesses and supporting existing ones, economic development initiatives can create diverse job opportunities that match the skills of the local workforce.
  3. Providing support services: Economic development programs can offer resources and support services, such as mentorship, networking opportunities, and access to capital, to help individuals and businesses succeed.

Why is Workforce Development Critical for the Quality of Life in St. Pete?

Pinellas County has a a higher percentage of low-income workers than the national average. 12% of our residents are living in poverty and an additional 34% are living with the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) threshold. That’s a staggering 46% combined! 

However, the very residents who need to take advantage of workforce development opportunities often lack the resources and support infrastructure to do so. The scenario is particularly acute for our Black residents. 

There is a $6 per hour wage gap between Black and White workers and child poverty rates are 43% for Black families as compared to 15% for White families. (Source: Pinellas County Equity Profile, UNITE Pinellas, 2019). These persistent racial disparities in income and wealth attainment suggest inequitable access to training and upskilling opportunities.

A Local Company’s Unique Approach to Building a Brighter Future for All in St. Pete

A technology company headquartered in Downtown St. Pete has devised a multi-faceted approach to workforce and economic development aimed at empowering individuals with sought-after skills to enhance lives, positively impact our communities, and nurture the flourishing tech industry in Tampa Bay. CodeBoxx is a double bottom-line organization, combining profitability with social responsibility, that engages in Ed-Tech, Tech-Solutions, and Venture-Tech to cultivate a thriving tech ecosystem that benefits individuals, communities, and businesses alike.

Through comprehensive education and lifelong support, CodeBoxx provides an alternative pathway to acheiving a higher-paying career in the booming technology sector at a fraction of the time and cost of a traditional degree. By providing equal opportunities for all residents, regardless of their background or prior tech experience, CodeBoxx is fostering a more equitable and sustainable future for St. Pete.

Their technology training programs are available online, on campus, and hybrid, as well as part-time and full-time. All applications are accepted, a laptop loan program is available for those who need it, and they offer multiple payment options, including private loans, interest-free installment plans, deferred tuition, and scholarships through the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. 

Why Technology? 

The technology sector in the Tampa Bay Region has experienced significant growth over the past five years, with a 30 percent jump in job growth. This growth shows no signs of slowing down, with projections of adding over 3,700 jobs by 2027, for a total growth of 14 percent, according to recent data from Chmura JobsEQ Data provided by the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council (source).

A shortage of trained workers in a variety of market segments compromises our regional competitiveness. This is particularly true in the technology sector. In 2019, a concerning statistic emerged from a survey of IT employers in Tampa Bay: 70% reported facing moderate-to-extreme skills shortages (source). This finding underscores the urgent need for investment in workforce development and upskilling initiatives to address the growing demand for skilled professionals in the region’s IT sector.

CodeBoxx’s Collaborative Solutions for a Sustainable Future

A collaborative approach involving various stakeholders is essential to effectively address the affordable housing crisis and promote economic growth in St. Pete. CodeBoxx leverages a variety of collaborative strategies, such as: 

  1. Industry partnerships: CodeBoxx engages local technology companies in developing training programs to ensure that the skills being taught are relevant and in demand.
  2. Public-private collaborations: They work with governments and private organizations to create targeted initiatives that address the specific needs of their communities.
  3. Community engagement: By involving community members in the planning and implementing workforce and economic development initiatives, they ensure that the programs are tailored to the unique needs and aspirations of the St. Pete community.

The affordable housing crisis and the need for economic growth are pressing issues that demand a comprehensive and collaborative approach. St. Pete and the greater Tampa Bay region can build a stronger, more resilient community by investing in workforce development, fostering public-private partnerships, and promoting inclusive growth. 

Just this morning, CodeBoxx presented to the City of St. Petersburg’s Economic and Workforce Development Committee to share its mission and vision for St. Pete. Workforce and economic development are interconnected elements that can significantly impact the future of any society. By working together, we can create a brighter future for all residents, ensuring that they have access to quality housing, education, and employment opportunities. By overcoming the challenges of today and paving the way for a more prosperous tomorrow, we can create a powerful force that drives sustainable growth, improves the quality of life, and fosters a thriving, prosperous future for everyone in St. Pete and beyond.

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