It's time for jobs agency to remember its job

  • Share
Toni Jennings isn't someone you'd expect to criticize Workforce Central Florida.

After all, she helped found the jobs agency.

Heck, there's even an annual Workforce award named after her.

Yet, on the heels of scandals over everything from superhero capes to federal investigations, Jennings minced no words last week when I asked her about the agency's current state of affairs:

"Their mission has been compromised."

Those who know Jennings — a respected former Senate president and lieutenant governor — know that she isn't one to rush to judgment or overreact to a single episode.

Workforce Central Florida, however, has had far more than just one problem.

It started with the capes — a plan to spend more than $10,000 in public money on miniature superhero capes supposed to make the jobless feel empowered. Instead, they made the agency look stupid. Jobless people need jobs, not gimmicks.

Then, the Sentinel revealed that some board members' companies had been striking financial deals with the very taxpayer-funded agency they were supposed to be watchdogging.

State auditors questioned car purchases. A legal dispute with SunTrust cost an additional $739,000.

Now, as the Sentinel's Jim Stratton reported, the feds are looking at the state's entire network of 24 local boards, and Gov. Rick Scott is asking questions.

Add it all up, and you have quite a taxpayer-funded mess.

Also losing out: job seekers. Because, as Jennings points out: "If you're spending dollars on these things, you're not spending money on people who need jobs."

The complicated hubbub seems far removed from the late '90s, when Jennings helped create the state's work-force network with a seemingly simple goal: to help people find work.

It was all part of welfare reform: trying to get people off the public dole and on to private payrolls.

In short, Workforce Central Florida was meant to help people find jobs. And it does.

But the agency's mission has also wandered a bit since its inception.

For instance, Workforce also runs a gang-prevention program for teens. A worthy endeavor? Absolutely. But part of the core mission of a jobs agency? I'm not so sure.

The agency also now focuses more of its time on companies than individuals. A big part of the agency's focus is subsidizing job-training programs that companies might otherwise pay for themselves as a basic cost of doing business.

  • Share
Baltimore's top properties for August [Pictures]

Baltimore's top properties for August [Pictures]

Find out where Baltimore's most expensive homes on the market are and how much they are worth. Here's a list of most pricey new properties...

Pictures: Ins and outs of the new iPhones and Apple Watch

Ins and outs of the new iPhones and Apple Watch [Pictures]

Everything you need to know about Apple's new products and gadgets.

New cars for 2015

New cars for 2015

Most of the 2015 models are hitting dealer lots in the third quarter of 2014. Here's a look at redesigned or all-new models for 2015.

Nielsen names 14 breakthrough consumer products

14 breakthrough consumer products

Here is market research company Nielsen's list of 14 breakthrough consumer innovation products, based on products introduced in 2012 that...