BY SHARON HILLSTROM
Andrew Newman is quite a catch. He is a college-educated, skilled employee with three professional internships under his belt. He also happens to be a big fan of the Bradenton area.
Sun Hydraulics Corp. successfully wooed Newman from Missouri to a mechanical engineering job at Sun’s facility in the Bradenton area in 2016.
“Sun is a great company and Bradenton is a wonderful place to live,” said Newman, who is engaged to be married. “There’s always something new to do. We never get bored. It’s a great place to live and work – and play on the weekends.”
Such praise from a 26-year-old skilled professional is music to economic developers’ ears. That’s because talent attraction is a constant challenge for employers vying for workers with similar qualifications.
At the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC), we continually look for ways to help local employers with workforce challenges, along with our partners in education and at CareerSource Suncoast. Recently, CareerSource shared with us an analysis by EMSI, a labor market analytics firm, rating the talent attraction of U.S. communities.
Manatee County’s rating has improved in the past few years. EMSI reports that Manatee County ranked well in net migration of workers and had solid overall job growth and growth of skilled occupations during the study period.
That’s nice to hear, but perhaps the most encouraging finding of the EMSI study is in the strategies the study recommends based on analyzing successful communities. We are already implementing many aspects of those winning strategies in Manatee County as part of the EDC’s strategic plan.
Two strategies caught my eye: the importance of talent attraction and a focus on exposing students to STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) early and consistently throughout their school years.
Our latest tactical move in talent attraction is called “941Next.” This initiative seeks to spread the word among young professionals that the Bradenton area wants their talents here and can support their career desires and active lifestyles. We’ve recruited employees at area companies to help tell that story through short videos that will be shared through social media starting this summer. Andrew Newman at Sun Hydraulics is one of those volunteers.
The EDC’s strategic plan also sets out ambitious goals for connecting businesses and education to advance STEM learning and better prepare young people for modern, technology-focused careers. Thanks to our Education Committee and CareerSource Suncoast, we now have a catalog of existing
STEM-related programs at area schools, colleges, and nonprofit organizations.
At our next educators’ roundtable, we will comb through the findings and create an action plan to fill gaps and act on opportunities.
Manatee County taxpayers recently demonstrated their support for this strategy in voting for additional funding for Manatee County public schools, including enhancements to STEM education. We will keep a close eye on how those dollars are invested to better prepare students for higher education and skilled jobs.
Our research identified numerous existing STEM programs that parents may not know about. For example, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) recently announced fee-based, summertime opportunities for elementary, middle and high school students to focus on STEM.
For children ages 7-14, registration is open for Kids’ Summer Spectrum, an educational enrichment day camp at SCF. Some classes offer hands-on computer and technical training. For more information, visit SCF.edu/Kids or call 941-752-5203 in Bradenton or 941-363-7203 in Lakewood Ranch.
High school students who have completed the ninth grade can register for SCF’s STEM Healthcare Camp. The summer camp lets students explore the roles and responsibilities of healthcare professionals, including hands-on opportunities to work with simulated patients, which are life-size computerized mannequins built to mimic real human physiological responses. Students will use problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to determine patient conditions. For more information, visit SCF.edu/Kids or contact Cathy King, at KingC@SCF.edu or 941-363-7228.