5 Questions

By Beau Denton April 30, 2011

Raising the Bar

Mireya Eavey is the executive director of CareerEdge Funders Collaborative in Manatee and Sarasota, a workforce development program that partners with businesses, nonprofits and the government to offer continued training and education for low-wage employees. With $289,612 in seed money from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, CareerEdge has primarily focused on the local healthcare industry, including hundreds of employees being trained at local hospitals.

What is CareerEdge?

Our mission is career laddering—moving low-wage to mid-level workers into sustainable wages, so they don’t have to have two or three jobs to survive and support their families. We do that by working with the employer and providing grant dollars to pay for training and eliminate barriers. We’re also working on job readiness with the unemployed, giving them all the tools and skills they need based on what the employers are asking for. We want to help our region have a skilled workforce, because when a company calls about relocating here, one of the first questions they ask is: “Do you have the workforce that I need for my organization?”

What are some obstacles to career laddering?

Tuition. [But] our grants allow the company to pay 100 percent of the tuition and training, and at the same time provide childcare and transportation for when employees go to class. Some employees need help with financial literacy—they don’t even know how to budget—or digital literacy. A very easy barrier is just the supervisor not wanting to let that employee go [to training], so in our collaborative the trainers work with the unit managers, and they all come together and say, “This is what we want to do for our employees. You have to make the time available—shift schedules for them.”

Why is this good for businesses?

A lot of employers put an ad in the paper when there are openings, but this is a concept of growing your own. You’re building capacity within your organization to start investing in the workforce that you currently have, employees that already understand your culture and are loyal to your organization. This creates morale for the company—employees knowing that their employer is investing in them creates a higher level of loyalty. And as you move those employees up, you open up a pipeline for the unemployed to come in.

Why focus on the healthcare industry?

Everything that we do is based on research. We’re not training just to train—we have to see that there is job creation potential there. That’s one of the biggest issues in our workforce systems: We’ve got a lot of training, but there are no jobs at the end of the training. From our research, healthcare still had growth, while other sectors did not.

Are you planning to move into other industries?

Yes. We are in the process of meeting with employers in manufacturing, because PGT and Tervis Tumbler are adding jobs in our area, and so is Mustang Vacuum in Manatee County. We have to work with the manufacturers to understand what career laddering is in their organizations. This is about the employee and the employer—it’s a two-pronged approach. I like the EDCs in Manatee and Sarasota to make the introductions, so the employer sees that we’re working in partnership.

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