One of the areas that Hillsborough County, and our region in general, needs to improve is in the quality of our jobs. We need to focus as much as possible on attracting more skilled jobs and quality companies to Hillsborough County. This has a direct impact on overall prosperity and opportunities for our citizens. It is also critical that we provide employment opportunities for our young people graduating from our universities to stay in our region and find work. Another opportunity is to create skilled jobs for our young people who do not attend college.
We need to emphasize the dignity and importance of all employment including jobs of skilled tradespeople that are also critical to the economic health and development of our community. Our citizens have different talents and interests, and we as a community need to provide opportunities for these skills to be developed and advanced. This is where partnerships between our government and the private sector are critical. We can work together to meet the needs of our companies by building up the skills of our workers to help them compete for better jobs.
We have existing programs that can be enhanced by bringing different organizations together in a focused way to really work on this critical issue. We know we score low on the quality of our jobs compared to similar metropolitan areas, and if we are to share the prosperity of some of our stronger points like our population growth and the actual increase in the number of jobs in Hillsborough County, we need to address the quality of the jobs offered.
I personally know what this can mean for a family. In 1959 the opportunity was not available in Hillsborough County that we have now. My father had to move our family to Chicago to work as a silk screen printer because the opportunity for a skilled laborer like my dad to have a job with health benefits, profit sharing, and a retirement plan did not exist here. The 12 years my family spent in Chicago enabled my parents to come back to Tampa and retire to live a better life. Things are better here now than in 1959, but we still have a long way to go. We are in a different league as a metropolitan area than we were in 1959. We are in now in competition with cities like Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Charlotte. We need to compete for companies and jobs by enhancing the opportunities for Hillsborough County to improve our labor force at all levels. We can work to help our citizens do better. A quote from someone I admire greatly comes to mind. “I can never stand still. I must explore and experiment.” Walt Disney. We as a community must do the same thing.