CareerSource Central Florida President and CEO

Few organizations serve both the supply side as well as the demand side of the economic equation like CareerSource Central Florida (CSCF). Everyone agrees that the “Talent Pipeline” is one of the most significant factors in a region’s economic growth, from attracting new businesses, to keeping the best and brightest the region produces. Making the connection between job creators and job seekers, while being a guiding voice between those seeking talent and institutions dedicated to training talent is part of CSCF’s role. Its impact is staggering, with over 9,400 businesses connecting with more than 83,000 job seekers each year. Leading this effort in Central Florida is Pamela Nabors, president and CEO since 2012.

EW: Coming into your offices, it looks like changes are afoot? 

PN: We are moving our headquarters downtown so people can more intentionally find us. [Their current location is on Mendham Blvd., in East Orlando near the SR 417 and 408 intersection]. Also, believe it or not, it will save close to $1.6 million over the course of our lease, which are resources we can fold back into programs. In addition, being downtown will make us more central to our other locations, and we’ll be a part of the synergy that is happening there.

EW: How did you get started in workforce development? 

PN: I’ve been in the arena for close to 20 years. My background was in education and I originally worked at Florida Institute of Technology, teaching aerospace students how to write. It was great fun and during that time I got involved in a program that is now called ‘Industrial Organizational Psychology.’

Utilizing my different skills and background, I then went to work as a career counselor, so that over time I basically did everything the people in my organization now do. I was training and being trained in all aspects of workforce development. In fact, I can say I actually trained engineers in the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) at Kennedy Space Center on how to write effective memos!

I had the opportunity to study the Job Training Act, and I was intrigued about how to make people productive workers and how to connect talent with business. I took over that department at what is now Eastern Florida State College and ran their programs, then went to Brevard Workforce. I just loved it; there were new things to learn every day, challenges to overcome and it really was about making people productive and fulfilled in their jobs.

EW: Elaborate for a moment on what attracted you and kept you in this industry? 

PN: I have a lot of motivation and ambition, and this industry presents tremendous opportunities to grow. It is a very diverse group of people we are working with, as we are connected to business, government and the educational sectors. So it has always been an intellectual challenge, understanding how people work, why they work, how they chose what they do, and how businesses structure themselves to make their employees more productive and more engaged. It is all about assessment, from hiring, to training and even dismissing. 

Thank goodness I had an educational foundation in writing and composition, because that is a lot of what I did to get to this position, putting thoughts on paper and creating programs to achieve those results, writing grant proposals, and developing strategies to inform and motivate personnel towards a common goal.

EW: What is the biggest change you have observed in workforce development, since you have been in it long enough to see it grow from almost an initial stage? 

PN: The independent sector, the 501(c)3s like ourselves, are now seen as a vital part of the economy by the private or business sector. When I started, we were almost viewed as a ‘human service’ or ‘social services’ sector. Today, workforce development has been raised to the forefront.

EW: In other words, you aren’t here just to help the disenfranchised? 

PN: Exactly. Initially, we focused on the lower income strata, those who were unemployed or underemployed. Now our primary customer is business – finding what they need and how to supply a talent pipeline. That is the best strategy for every group. I realized that I can go to businesses and say, ‘Please hire this group out of your sense of corporate responsibility,’ but how much better to go to businesses and say ‘I have a talented, well-trained, qualified group of people. Would you like to choose from them?’

The better I do that, the more support I get from the business community, the educational community and the people in the community who want to improve their potential for being a better hire. This is a major shift – now the business community has a strong voice at the table explaining where we should focus our revenues to meet the needs and demands of all the stakeholders and how to obtain additional funding.

EW: This is a major paradigm shift. What do you see next on the horizon? 

PN: One of the trends is we have to ‘Uberize’ what we do. My staff always laughs when I say that. Not only has there been a change in how we link with the demand side of the equation, now we have to change in how we deliver our services. Traditionally, we have ‘places’ where people who need services come to and we coalesce around those physical locations. Not that we would move completely away from that, but we need services that go to businesses and to job seekers.  We have to create a 21st century experience and process to get people to a competitive place for employment.

Here is the exciting and scary part. By 2020, I don’t even know what jobs we are going to be training people in. There will be jobs we aren’t talking about today. Therefore, we need a system and a service process that is adaptable to that changing environment.

EW: How is Central Florida unique in the workforce world, say from Hartford, where you were for 10 years? 

PN: We are in a state that has an extremely diverse economy. Where we are, all those economic sectors overlap. People know about tourism, hospitality and retail, but the technology side, ‘the other half,’ is growing from modeling and simulation, to the area being a springboard to new industries like Medical City. I can’t believe how much that has grown just since I came back in 2012. We have to find ways to keep the youthful workforce here.

EW: How do you work to accommodate a very culturally diverse workforce? 

PN: First of all, we hire it, so that when our people serve those individuals and those businesses, because they are also starting businesses, they understand not only the language, but the culture.  We realize that employability increases when someone is proficient in English, so we have talked to schools about vocational English classes, in both medical and manufacturing. We want to help create on-ramps for people into these emerging industries. What manufacturing was in my experience in the northeast, is not what it will be in Central Florida in the future.

This article appears in the May 2015 issue of SpaceCoast Business.
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