Transatlantic Cities & the Future of Work
From the Magic Kingdom to
and the Future of Work
For many, Orlando conjures up carefree images of retirees and families frolicking around the Magic Kingdom. But Orlando’s story is also one of breakneck growth. The metro area has added 1,000 people or more each week since 1950.
For many, Orlando conjures up carefree images of retirees and families frolicking around the Magic Kingdom. But Orlando’s story is also one of breakneck growth. The metro area has added 1,000 people or more each week since 1950, and it’s projected to add roughly 1,500 residents each week for the next 11 years, topping out at 5.2 million by 2030.
But Orlando’s growth arc is about far more than just a meteoric rise in population. Growth is fueled by two distinct groups: migrants, and retirees. In recent years, more than half of Orlando’s increase in population has come from domestic in-migration (with 32 percent coming from international migration). In 2017 alone, the area welcomed roughly 50,000 Puerto Ricans fleeing the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. At the same time, baby boomers are flocking to the area seeking health care and affordable housing. By 2030, seniors will outnumber those aged 0-17. These demographic shifts will have profound implications for Orlando’s workforce, educational institutions, and international competitiveness.
Demographic shifts will also color how Orlando plans for – and transitions to – the future of work. The stream of nearly 75 million annual tourists to the area’s theme parks ensures the industry will remain a bedrock of the region’s economy. But recognizing the need to branch out (and the limits of tourism-fueled growth), Orlando’s policymakers launched the “Orlando - You Don’t Know the Half of It” campaign in 2018 to raise the profile of growth industries beyond the parks.
With a rapidly expanding population in need of quality jobs, Orlando is scanning the horizon for future drivers of growth – health care, construction, advanced manufacturing, modeling and simulation, and cottage industries linked to the Kennedy Space Center in nearby Cape Canaveral. A nascent innovation ecosystem is taking root, propelling growth in per capita GDP and high-wage, high-skill jobs.
But breakneck growth brings growing pains. While construction and consumption have been reliable drivers of short-term growth, the area aims to break with the “Florida of the past” to ensure sustainable, long-term growth capable of propelling the future of work. To begin, officials want to lay the groundwork for jobs and industries of the future by tackling long-standing issues with transportation, housing, and education. And they are leaning on anchor industries and robust public-private partnerships to push everything from micro degrees to apprenticeships to future-of-work contingency planning. Thus, Orlando’s future of work will be shaped not only by the aggressive adoption of technology and automation, but also by its continued rapid growth, demographic trajectory, and treatment of the future of work as a first-order policy challenge.
Orlando’s experience mirrors that of other rapidly growing and diverse cities in the Sun Belt, including Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix, making it a bellwether for how the future of work might play out in rapidly expanding metro areas across the United States.
So why does Orlando merit its own future-of-work deep dive? Orlando’s experience mirrors that of other rapidly growing and diverse cities in the Sun Belt, including Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix, making it a bellwether for how the future of work might play out in rapidly expanding metro areas across the United States.
In addition, Orlando’s policymakers are keenly aware of the challenges – and opportunities – posed by the future of work and are taking steps to shape long-term plans. But with technology set to forge new winners and losers around the United States – and the world – how does Orlando envision its future of work? And what is it doing to prepare? This is precisely why the Bertelsmann Foundation teamed up with the National Association of Workforce Boards to explore how Orlando’s workforce and policymakers are grappling with the future of work.
The Orlando Workforce
The Orlando Workforce
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average weekly wage in the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) in 2018 was $864 – $135 less than the national average of $999.20. Despite its status as the 22nd largest metro area in the United States, Orlando ranks 138rd in annual wages. The Sunshine State’s minimum wage was $8.46 in 2018, which equates to an annual salary of just $17,597 for a full-time worker. The Orlando area had a poverty rate of 14 percent in 2018, an increase of 2.3 percent from 2010.
The Orlando area is home to myriad large private- and public-sector anchor employers. According to a 2018 report, the top private-sector employers are primarily in hospitality, health care, and aerospace.
Top 10 Employers in the Orlando MSA | 2018
A 2018 24/7 Wall Street study deemed the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford MSA the 12th least affordable housing market in the United States. Another study, conducted by Freddie Mac in 2019, used a range of indicators to rank Orlando as the country’s fifth most rent-burdened MSA — judged by the percentage of households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent — behind only Miami, San Diego, Los Angeles, and New York. As illustrated in the chart below, the MSA’s housing market makes it difficult for low-income residents to improve their standard of living.
Housing in Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida | 2018
|Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Florida||US Average|
|Cost-burdened Low Income Households||55.6%||n/a|
|Median Single Family Home Value||217k||216k|
|Median Household Income||52k||59k|
|Population Growth (2011 – 2016)||12.4%||3.7%|
Cost-burdened Low Income Households
Median Single Family Home Value
Median Household Income
Population Growth (2011 – 2016)
The Orlando area is home to 35 institutions of higher education, many of which excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of the largest universities in the United States, with 68,000 students. Close by, the Central Florida Research Park provides UCF with a space to cultivate and commercialize new ideas. Three state colleges — Lake-Sumter, Seminole, and Valencia — together serve more than 66,000 students. In February 2018, Valencia College was awarded the Siemens-Aspen Community College STEM Award, which will provide a $50,000 award each to eight “middle-skill STEM programs” offered by the college. Orlando is home to the eighth-largest K-12 school district in the country, Orange County Public Schools, which enrolled 215,703 students in 2019, a bump of 4,000 from 2018.
In a striking counternarrative to the economic boom enjoyed by Orlando and the majority of the United States, more workers in Central Florida were laid off in 2018 than in any year since 2010. Local news reports point to job losses in brick-and-mortar retail, including grocery stores, as being especially severe.
Since 2017, Orlando has drawn the attention of national and international researchers examining labor market vulnerability to technology and automation. A 2017 study by the Institute for Spatial Economic Analysis at the University of Redlands found that 61.8 percent of jobs in the MSA could be at risk from technology and automation.
The study found that MSAs with high shares of low-wage, low-skill professions such as administrative support, sales, and routine service-sector jobs will experience the biggest drops in jobs and wages. The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford MSA could see 46 to 49 percent of its wage base evaporate due to automation by the year 2035. In a striking counternarrative to the economic boom enjoyed by Orlando and the majority of the United States, more workers in Central Florida were laid off in 2018 than in any year since 2010. Local news reports point to job losses in brick-and-mortar retail, including grocery stores, as being especially severe.
Outside analysis has been backed up by the Orlando Economic Partnership’s own assessment, which projects that cashiers, secretaries, office clerks, and retail salespeople will undergo some of the largest declines as a share of employment by 2030. The report predicts that while the absolute number of these jobs will increase, their share of the local workforce will shrink and they will cease to be future engines of job growth.
Future of Work
The Bertelsmann Foundation and the National Association of Workforce Boards, in partnership with CareerSource Central Florida, convened more than 60 stakeholders to discuss the impact of technology and automation on Orlando and its workforce. These discussions had three goals:
- Move the conversation beyond estimates of jobs gained or lost, to identify Orlando’s core future-of-work strengths, challenges, and needs.
- Spark a local policy discussion of how technology and automation are impacting Orlando.
- Highlight future-of-work approaches of relevance to the area. These strategies are intended to add to ongoing initiatives (such as those started by the Orlando Economic Partnership and the University of Central Florida’s future-of-work research program), without duplicating them.
Stakeholder Map from Orlando Discussions
Orlando stakeholders identified workforce challenges ranging from job quality to talent pipelines and the integration of new arrivals.
Here are the top ten challenges identified by Orlando stakeholders:
Orlando stakeholders identified workforce challenges ranging from
job quality to talent pipelines and the integration of new arrivals.
Here are the top ten challenges identified by Orlando stakeholders:
WIDENING OF THE “DIGITAL DIVIDE”
Orlando’s rapid expansion is fueled by retirees and a young, often non-English speaking, population. New technologies are widening the digital skills gap between the “haves” and “have nots.” Stakeholders report that the area is inevitably “leaving a lot of people behind” as it pivots toward advanced manufacturing, health care, and other growth industries. However, there is not yet a widespread communitywide recognition of (or policy response on) how to bridge the digital divide.
Orlando’s theme parks, which welcomed 75 million visitors in 2018, rely on a pool of low-wage, low-skill labor to oprerate. Stakeholders report that Orlando has a history of “transactionally” delivering seasonal employees to large anchor employers. However, given the parks’ seasonal nature, workers’ hours (and incomes) are often inconsistent, which in turn leads to constant workforce churn. As a result, these workers are less likely to become invested in their communities, which leads to a deficit in social capital. Furthermore, the talent management and development systems used by the theme parks promote “worker churn,” which diminishes incentives to invest in education and training.
AGING WORKFORCE & NEW ARRIVALS
Across Orlando, a large pool of highly skilled workers is nearing retirement (for example, engineers and project managers in the construction industry). At the same time, the rapid implementation of new technologies and automation will create fresh demand for new mid- and high-skill workers. Stakeholders report that employers often import mid- and high-skill workers from other regions and states rather than “building existing workers up.” Orlando’s economic and population boom necessitates a redoubling of efforts to train and skill workers already in the local workforce.
In Orlando, great importance is attached to getting and keeping a job – any job. But far less attention is paid to what makes a job a good job. Workforce boards often fixate on the raw unemployment rate (which stands at 3.2 percent) but ignore job-quality metrics such as wages, benefits, income inequality, transportation, and other factors.
Stakeholders report that people come to Orlando for “no taxes and sunshine.” But being in a “low-tax state with limited tax dollars,” means there is scant public funding to develop higher education and attract industries of the future. Escaping this trap will require that officials rely less on the “old Florida,” low-tax pitch and find other ways to lure workers and employers looking to set up shop in Orlando.
LEADERSHIP AND REGIONALISM
Orlando’s political leadership faces the dual challenge of managing short-term growth while keeping the long-term ramifications of technology and automation in check. But, perhaps because of its status as a swing state, leaders at the state, county, and city level face enormous pressure to make short-term bets rather than “long-term plans.” Term limits force politicians to deliver on promises, but “workforce development is too important to be left to elected officials.”
Future-of-work planning is also complicated by competing consistencies within Central Florida and beyond. The MSA is divided among four countries with vastly different industrial and workforce profiles. For example, Disney World is located in Bay Lake, part of Orange County (which includes downtown Orlando). But the boom in advanced manufacturing (such as BRIDG) is occurring just inside Osceola County, which until recently was heavily rural. Thus, Orlando’s spatial and political geography means counties within the same MSA are in competition with one another for economic and workforce development resources.
Stakeholders report that the talent pipeline between workers and companies is broken, especially in advanced manufacturing, where workers lack the skills employers demand. This leads companies to recruit workers from outside of the Orlando MSA.
- • In the ’80s and ’90s, employers were not focused on growth areas such as advanced manufacturing and thus did not demand ultra-specific qualifications when liaising with the workforce board or institutions of higher education.
- • Today, employers demand a very narrow set of skills from workers, but the jobs of the future may be broad-based and require “learnability” instead.
- • Policymakers in Orlando often do not understand that “economic development is not about ‘recruiting’ jobs.” Rather, it is about developing workers and the workforce that exists today.
- • Employers do not support higher taxes because they are not sure what they would fund. Many ask, “If there were money, what would we do with it?” Policymakers should provide an answer to this question to unlock funding for workforce and economic development.
INTEGRATION OF FIRST-GENERATION STUDENTS AND NEW ARRIVALS
• Many new arrivals to Orlando are immigrants who often do not speak English. Integrating non-English speakers into the labor market has become more difficult. These workers and students steer away from trades with livable, sustainable wages, in favor of easily attainable jobs with lower pay to support their families. In Orlando, there are community and cultural differences in how people view the importance of education and training.
• In Orlando, one-fourth to one-third of high school students do not graduate, leaving the private sector to pick up the slack to educate and skill entry-level employees. Employers and anchor institutions don’t send clear signals to workers on where money can be made. The “dark side of innovation” is that no one is providing solutions or retraining workers for future opportunities.
A SINGULAR FOCUS ON TECHNICAL SKILLS
Stakeholders report that far too much emphasis is placed on certificates and micro degrees built around a narrow set of skills demanded by employers. While these programs provide a concrete link to jobs in the short term, they involve a narrow band of skills that might become obsolete in the future.
Rather, stakeholders report that employers face a deficit of “soft skills,” such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and project leadership. Orlando could better integrate these “soft skills” into workers’ lives to immunize their jobs from the potential dislocation caused by technology and automation. Furthermore, far more emphasis needs to be put on teaching students to be lifelong learners, and students need help finding out where they can go and what they can do “to learn how to learn.”
Orlando vies for anchor employers, workers, and resources with a host of local, national, and international competitors. While many people have a positive view of Orlando because of its theme parks, the area could do a lot more to play up its strengths to workers and employers.
Orlando stakeholders identified a number of unique strengths, including hospitality, advanced manufacturing, and favorable demographics.
Here are the top strengths:
Orlando stakeholders identified a number of unique strengths,
including hospitality, advanced manufacturing, and favorable demographics.
Here are the top strengths:
In June 2019, the Orlando MSA’s unemployment rate stood at just 3.2 percent. Traditional growth engines such as tourism and health care provide a wealth of jobs to those who need them now. Workers flock to Orlando knowing they can find a job, even if it is not well-paid.
THE “SECRET SAUCE” OF HOSPITALITY
Roughly one-third of jobs in Orlando are supported by the industry. Despite competitive pressure from international destinations, Orlando has doubled down on its ability to provide a unique customer service experience and has succeeded in boosting arrivals and revenues from tourism.
- • The Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association promotes the integration of technology and automation in order to “upskill” workers by freeing them up to provide improved customer service. Ultimately, technology will improve customer service for the area’s 75 million annual visitors, resulting in a “virtuous circle” in which more visitors are drawn there.
- • Technology is being introduced behind the scenes through business intelligence and data analytics to optimize the use of hotel and staff resources. Hotels are learning what works and what doesn’t as they attempt to constantly upgrade workers’ customer service skills.
- • Hospitality does not require a college degree and career pathways have been mapped beyond entry-level roles (although stakeholders admit these need to be communicated better).
INTEGRATION OF TECHNOLOGY AND AUTOMATION
Given the importance of tourism and hospitality, Orlando is likely to be a “first-mover” when it comes to integrating technology and automation to replace or complement low-wage, low-skill work.
For example, technology is being used in hotels to enhance the guest experience with mobile check-in and electronic key cards. Guests can use technology to request items, communicate with staff, and check out.
Ultimately, new technologies allow Orlando’s tourism industry to remain competitive while letting workers spend more time providing a “world-class” guest experience. Therefore, the regional workforce’s focus on customer service, hospitality, and entertainment turns from a liability to a competitive advantage. Service-oriented customer service translates into a pool of soft skills that can drive the future of work beyond hospitality.
Since 2010, the MSA’s population has increased by 439,000. From 2017 to 2018 alone, the population of Lake, Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties expanded by roughly 60,000 residents. This growth is being driven by two distinct groups: seniors, and a young, entrepreneurial population seeking new opportunities. While these new residents create workforce challenges, they also ensure the long-term dynamism of Orlando’s economy.
ADVANCED MANUFACTURING AND OTHER ADVANCED INDUSTRIES
Orlando is positioning itself to take advantage of mid- and high-skill jobs that flow from the rapid implementation of technology and automation. Automation skills are in high demand in Orlando, and public investment is being leveraged to support new growth industries:
- • Modeling and Simulation: Orlando is home to the National Center for Simulation. Originally closely tied to the military, modeling and simulation is now used in a diverse array of fields including health care, education, entertainment, and industry training.
- • Employers are recruiting workers skilled in advanced manufacturing. To meet the demand, Valencia College launched its Advanced Manufacturing Training Facility in 2015. The facility is situated just two miles from BRIDG, a $239 million facility dedicated to supporting research into microelectronics and the Internet of Things (IoT). The area is also home to The International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research.
- • BRIDG will be the centerpiece of a 500-acre mixed-use technology park dubbed NeoCity, which caters to educated and skilled workers from aerospace/defense, space, entertainment, and IT earning an average wage of $75,000 per year. A STEM high school is being built to bolster the talent pipeline from K-12 education to BRIDG and NeoCity.
IMPROVING EDUCATION at all levels in order to foster the creation of new jobs and skills that can propel the future of work
• In its K-12 system, Orlando is experimenting with “flipped learning,” where students study new material at home and apply it in the classroom. Orlando is maximizing the “job readiness” of students by integrating technology into the classroom from grades 6 to 12. There is acknowledgement of the risks posed by the digital divide, and the area is trying to bridge the gap that exists between “haves” and “have nots.”
• Orlando is working to upskill adult workers in low-wage, low-skill jobs by creating associate degrees for in-demand jobs, forging partnerships with individual employers, and launching sector-specific initiatives in, for example, the construction sector.
• Orlando is tailoring its adult education system to a diverse and growing population that does not have time to take off work to attend class. Courses are designed for students who have nontraditional schedules.
• Technology allows career counselors to give learners better information and career advice. Advisers can help map specific career pathways and individualize learning and training paths so they skew away from the one-size-fits-all model of the past. Adult learning is focusing heavily on blended learning and online course delivery.
• Adaptation of university structures: In higher education, technology allows universities to serve far more students. Universities and colleges are pooling their resources though “co-allocation,” the sharing of regional campuses, and reciprocity in admissions.
DEVELOPMENT of public-private workforce partnerships has been spurred by “extreme competition” for workers among sectors and communities. The creation of industry and sector partnerships underscores the importance of local stakeholders in forecasting current and future skill needs. Workers benefit from instruction in sought-after skills, awareness of emerging opportunities, and guidance on which degrees and certifications to pursue based on hyperlocal needs.
Sector partnerships bring together local stakeholders, employers, colleges, education and training providers, labor representatives, and workforce development executives to address the challenges of developing talent pipelines. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014 recognizes the importance of these strategies by requiring states and local workforce boards to pioneer industry partnerships.
Examples and investments include:
- • Short-term apprenticeships created by the insurance industry, in hospitality and tourism, and directly with anchor employers such as Lockheed Martin.
- • “Educational reimbursement” schemes pioneered by Publix Supermarkets and Disney.
- • Alignment of K-12 education with industry needs (e.g., the construction industry, which needs skilled engineers and laborers).
- • Partnerships between community colleges and Career Source Central Florida on the one hand, and employers and the University of Central Florida and Valencia College on the other to create a pipeline of workers in targeted sectors.
INVESTMENTS are being made in the future by local governments. Contrary to Florida’s reputation as a low-tax, low-regulation state, local governments are willing to make long-term investments in new technologies and the workforce needed to propel those new technologies. For example, Osceola County is investing in microelectronics and advanced sensors by supporting BRIDG. Polk County is investing heavily in SunTrax, a 200-acre “simulated city” dedicated to research and test autonomous vehicle technologies.
QUALITY OF LIFE
People come to Florida for sunshine, warm weather, and a clean environment. The Orlando area is seeking to safeguard quality of life by investing in:
- • Transportation: To alleviate congestion, the “I-4 Ultimate” project is transforming a 21-mile stretch of I-4 running through downtown. In addition, in May 2019, Virgin Trains USA started construction on a high-speed train from Orlando International Airport to West Palm Beach, which will eventually link two other rapidly growing metros, Miami and Tampa.
- • Arts and Culture: Orlando is developing arts and cultural institutions beyond its famous theme parks. Examples include the Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts and the Orlando Museum of Art.
Stakeholders revealed needs and areas of focus going forward:
Stakeholders revealed needs and areas of focus going forward:
STRENGTHEN TALENT PIPELINES
Orlando should look beyond short-term projects aimed at attracting workers or employers and instead focus on beefing up research and investments in skills forecasting, career pathways, and skills certification. Policymakers should also invest in a system of workforce intermediaries, the mapping of career pathways, and sector strategies in order to strengthen the area’s talent pipelines.
SHIFT away from “recruiting” jobs from other regions and states, and lean into training and thinking about how Orlando’s existing workforce can benefit from technology, automation, and economic growth.
IMPROVE QUALITY OF LIFE
In order to attract mid- and highly skilled workers, Orlando needs to focus on improving its quality of life and livability. Educated workers who will drive the future of work cannot subsist solely on sunshine; they need reliable transportation, child care, affordable housing, good schools, and a clean environment. Orlando needs to throw more effort into making downtown a place that people want to spend time in.
TELL THE FUTURE-OF-WORK STORY
Low-wage, low-skill workers in Orlando often don’t know about the (re)training and education resources available to them. Future-of-work storytelling can help bridge the gap between, jobs, skills, technology, and automation on the one hand, and political leadership that holds the funding to actually “do something” on the other. Storytelling can bring different groups together:
- • Policymakers need an incentive to devote resources to future-of-work projects that are, by definition, not short term. They can use storytelling to communicate future-of-work planning and projects to constituents.
- • Employers consistently say, “We need x, y, z technology jobs filled,” but the area lacks the workers and systems to slot trained workers into these jobs. Orlando needs to do a better job of convincing employers that a shared investment can produce results, which can in turn drive revenue growth. Employers can use storytelling to convince workers and policymakers to invest in their own training and future of work preparation.
- • Students and workers need a story that is woven around skills of the future, about true needs and opportunities. This would help vulnerable populations (such as Orlando’s immigrant population) understand the value of additional education and skills training.
FORGE A PLAN
Lest the gloomier predictions of job and income losses precipitated by technology and automation come true, Orlando should develop a medium- and long-term strategy to preempt and address workforce disruption caused by these forces. Several stakeholders call for a “prevention tool or rubric” to help head off labor market disruption and say that an overarching strategy should include at least:
- • A detailed timeline for community engagement and policy development and implementation.
- • A sense of who is responsible for driving discussion and implementing solutions.
- • A comprehensive plan for reskilling the area’s low-wage, low-skill workforce.
- • Tie-ins to related challenges such as quality of life, education, political geography, social capital, and taxation (among others).
The Orlando Policy Puzzle
Orlando is one of these places.
Orlando’s future-of-work story is being written not only by the rapid implementation of technology and automation, but also by an economic and population boom. While cutting-edge future-of-work technologies are often pioneered in vacuum-like coding dens in Silicon Valley, they are implemented and scaled in places with complex political, economic, and social geographies.
Orlando is one of these places. This complexity is illustrated by the state’s main artery, Interstate 4, which snakes through four of the counties covered in this case study: Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Lake. The area, far removed from the beaches of Miami or the small towns of the Panhandle, gives Florida its swing-state status. It includes one the largest retirement communities in the country – The Villages – and the eighth-largest school district, in which 165 countries and 157 languages are represented. Creating a promising future of work means crafting sound policy that covers the bases in both places.
On the one hand, a large and relatively low-wage, low-skill workforce has sustained the area’s vaunted tourism and service sector ecosystem, propelling Orlando to national and international prominence. Stakeholders trumpet the area’s continued ability to deliver a top-shelf customer service experience that is immune to impersonal robot hotel check-in and other forms of automaton. The perpetual boom has offered opportunity to many without a college degree. The stark reality of low wages has been offset by low taxes and a relatively low cost of living that has lured workers from around the United States and the world.
On the other hand, Orlando’s policymakers sense that change is afoot and that technology and automation will transform the area’s economy and workforce. And they are acting to develop long-term plans for growth and prosperity, exemplified by developments occurring between downtown Orlando, its international airport, and the storied Space Coast, home of the Kennedy Space Center. As the University of Central Florida prepares to open its new campus in downtown Orlando, the region is investing in an advanced microelectronics facility at BRIDG, which is adjacent to NeoCity, a purpose-built 500-acre technology district intended to foster advanced manufacturing research and development across the region. Orlando and its educational institutions are also investing heavily in Lake Nona Medical City, a 650-acre health and life-sciences park that is projected to create up to 30,000 jobs. Moving farther east, these investments will eventually connect the Orlando area with the more sparsely populated Space Coast, which is attracting new investments from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and SpaceX.
While many workers in Orlando will have the qualifications and training to find employment in new growth sectors such as advanced manufacturing, health care, and the space industry, others will not. This is precisely why the Orlando area should develop a comprehensive future-of-work plan that catalogues present-day strengths while looking toward future challenges and vulnerabilities. The area’s future-of-work trajectory will be dictated by not only the rapid implementation of automation and new technologies but also by its enviable demographic trends and continued population boom. Making the right investments now will be crucial to securing future prosperity and growth.
But creating a regional plan for the future of work and forging political consensus will not be easy. Rapid growth has brought with it short-term growing pains and a focus on the here and now. Long-term planning will be complicated by Orlando’s political geography and diversity of stakeholders. But policymakers are already adopting a future-of-work lens when navigating the often-competing demands of local stakeholders. In doing so, the Orlando area has already done much to move away from the Florida of the past, and toward the future.
Five Key Questions
How do you think Orlando should proceed?
Answer these five key questions to let us know!
Five Key Questions
How do you think Orlando should proceed?
Answer these five key questions to let us know!
Emerging future of work strategies for Orlando.
Emerging future of work strategies for Orlando.
COMMUNICATE OPPORTUNITES IN ADVANCED INDUSTRIES
Orlando has worked hard to develop technology-driven industries and jobs in space, modeling and simulation, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing. BRIDG, the Space Coast, NeoCity, and Valencia College’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Facility illustrate just some of the investment and effort that have been placed to grow these opportunities.
- But accessing these opportunities often requires (at a minimum) an apprenticeship or associate’s degree. However, low-wage workers have pressing work and family obligations that often prevent them from seeking additional qualifications that will eventually move them up the career ladder. Providing for one’s family often means maximizing the number of hours spent earning a wage at an hourly job. This is why Orlando’s stakeholders should engage in a relatively low-cost outreach and marketing campaign targeting workers who are currently employed in low-wage work that may be at high risk of automation. This campaign should make low-wage workers aware of middle-skill opportunities, and the resources available to attain them. Furthermore, stakeholders could also work to communicate opportunities in advanced industries to students in middle and high school. In doing so, workers and students would gain an entrée into careers that may be somewhat resilient to technology and automation, while local businesses reinforce talent pipelines and their ability to compete in an increasingly global marketplace.
UPGRADE THE SKILLS OF LOW-WAGE WORKERS
Research has found that low-wage workers switch jobs frequently, but that they often find employment in another low-wage job. For example, a cashier leaves their job at a supermarket to become a waiter at a restaurant. Given the preponderance of low-wage workers in the Orlando area, policymakers face the challenge of augmenting the skills of a large low-wage population to meet the demands of advanced industries flocking to the area. In order to satiate this demand, policymakers should invest in an advanced labor market information system that helps forecast the demand for specific occupations and tasks. Skills transfer and upgrading could also be accomplished by facilitating more interaction between Orlando’s bourgeoning population of retirees, and low-wage workers who may be in search of concrete opportunities to move up the career ladder.
CULTIVATE STRATEGIC INDUSTRIES THROUGH WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT
To date, Orlando’s policymakers have sought to attract a bevy of high-skill, high-wage industries in an effort to emulate some of the successes of startup capitals with highly elevated levels of human capital such as Silicon Valley. But many of these incentives have been aimed at business attraction through tax abatements and other incentives. Policymakers should carefully weigh the need to attract middle and high skill industries, with the need to build job and career ladders for low-wage workers already present in the area. Instead of focusing on incentives, Orlando could instead focus on investing in human capital, improving job quality, and more nuanced forces impacting the future of work such as access to housing, transportation, and childcare.
CREATE AN INTEGRATED REGIONAL FUTURE OF WORK PLAN
As with other cases studies covered as part of this project, economic and workforce development cuts across cities and counties with vastly different economic, political, and demographic realities. In order to prepare for the future of work, Orlando’s policymakers must first be on the same page about strengths (and weaknesses) of the local labor market as they confront the future of work. If policymakers and the public appreciate the potential impact of technology and automation on the area, then they can develop a plan to pre-empt any negative impacts. While investing in innovation and education are necessary components of “future proofing” Orlando from any negative impact of technology and automation, political and economic leaders also need a strategy (and tactics) as they plan for the future of work.