The State of Jobs Conference (SOJC) is Florida’s largest conference focused on college and career development. The conference introduces high school students, mostly sophomores, to career tracks and industry leaders early on in their education. Several tracks are offered for students, including healthcare, engineering/manufacturing, information technology, hospitality, art/culture, and business.
Presented this year by CareerSource Suncoast, BIG (Bright Ideas on the Gulf Coast), and Gulf Coast CEO Forum, SOJC began in 2013 as an offering of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and the brainchild of Chris Laney. In 2016, Chris recognized the need to expand SOJC to make it a regional event. He took the idea to CareerSource Suncoast and subsequently expanded to the surrounding counties. SOJC now hosts 1,000 students from surrounding high schools and includes an evening event that focuses on college students nearing graduation and looking for jobs in our community.
Plymouth Harbor became involved with SOJC in 2016 after recognizing the workforce shortage would continue and that we needed to find a way to introduce young people to our industry as a viable and steady career choice. For the third year now, Plymouth Harbor is the healthcare track sponsor. In 2016 and 2017, our nurses participated in one of the three sessions in the healthcare track, engaging over 150 students in nursing as a career choice.
This year we were again the healthcare sponsor, which invites visibility with an exhibit booth and hosting of the healthcare track. We were able to connect with hundreds of high schoolers throughout the day and college students in the evening.
New this year was an offering for the high schoolers called Executive Roundtables. Each roundtable was hosted by an executive, defined as someone who had been in their business for at least 10 years. Plymouth Harbor was asked to supply host executives for some of the 45 different roundtables. Several employees and residents were willing to participate:
George McGonagill, Vice President of Facilities, hosted a table and led the conversation in careers related to the building trades. Alyson Harris, Director of Accounting, hosted a table that talked about the accounting field.
Paul Groen, resident and orthopedic surgeon, hosted a table and spoke about careers in the medical field.
Bill Johnston, resident and former president of the New York Stock Exchange, hosted a table focused on careers in the business and finance industry. Other staff involved in the SOJC this year included Becky Pazkowski, Tena Wilson, and Stephen Moros.
There seems to always be guests who recognize Plymouth Harbor as an icon in Sarasota. Last year, the son of a resident who teaches in Sarasota visited our booth. This year, one of the panelists in the healthcare track was Sarasota Memorial Hospital ER physician Reuben Holland. Dr. Holland spoke highly of Plymouth Harbor, saying ER patients presenting at SMH from Plymouth Harbor are always obviously well-cared for patients. Additionally, some people mention that their first jobs were at Plymouth Harbor.
“Two different people came up to me this year and said their first job was at Plymouth Harbor,” recalled Becky Pazkowski, who hosts the healthcare track sessions. “One was a teacher of 40 years who retired last year from Emma Booker Elementary. She was a nursing assistant here before she went into teaching. The other was a chef in USF’s hospitality program. He said his first job was in dining services here at Plymouth Harbor!”
Among our goals for being involved in SOJC is to show leadership in our industry, an industry often not mentioned as an option for those seeking career tracks. Plymouth Harbor has been around for over 50 years, and our industry is one of the largest in the state of Florida. It is our duty to remind people that we are here, we are not going anywhere, and we value good employees. We remind them that this could be their first job!