According to last month’s employment statistics, Broward County added more than 23,000 jobs. Miami-Dade didn’t do as well, with about 3,000 new jobs being added there.
But it’s not as though unemployment or underemployment have gone away. And a new program in Broward is trying to tackle those problems.
It’s called Startup Quest. The program puts patented ideas from universities into the hands of people who are underemployed or straight up out of work. Mentors and mentees serve as bosses and workers, respectively.
Ronald Herbas applied for a mentee spot in the program along with about 600 other people. Only 160 were accepted. His team meets every at Broward's Signature Grand Hotel.
“My background is really in computer science, building and turning around businesses and then obviously working with startups to help them go to the next level,” said Herbas. “I have a B.S. in computer science. I have a master’s in computer systems and an MBA.”
By the way, that’s THREE degrees.
When it comes to getting a spot in Startup Quest – having been laid off isn’t a bad thing. In fact, that’s the target market. Educated, motivated workers who want and need work. Not even necessarily folks with a tech background. There are dentists, real estate agents and social workers.
Herbas believes he could get a job if he were willing to relocate. But he wants to stay in South Florida.
"The market is a little bit different here," said Herbas. "I’m adapting, I’m still very hopeful. Right? And I’m realizing you have to make a decision to create something here or potentially go (somewhere else).
And that’s a South Florida economy problem business leaders have been trying to solve for decades.
Miami or Fort Lauderdale just don’t compare to cities like Chicago or Boston or Seattle – when it comes to big employers.
Jack Moss knows. He’s lived in Broward County for more than 50 years. Moss came out of retirement to work at Startup Quest.
“With the number of universities in South Florida and the number of people graduating, we need to have jobs for those people with specialty degrees,” Moss said.
In other words, the region needs to keep the talent it develops.
It’s not necessarily that someone like Ronald Herbas can’t get a job. It’s that the job he wants -- the one he qualifies for -- may not exist in here. At least not yet.
"I’m at that crossroads, right? You could either go back to the IBMs or the GEs of the world or I decide to start something on my own,” Herbas said. “There is no more real job security anymore. The only real job security is yourself.”
Mike O’Donnell runs the program and selects the mentees.
"(We have to manage) expectations because so many people want to get involved in one of the technology growth companies," said O'Donnell. "We had many more applications than we could accept. We took as many as we could and now we’ve got to get those who are in the program through and try to help them with their career objectives without disappointing them (because) something may not come of it."
This is the first 10-week cycle of Startup Quest. The program is funded for two more cycles next year.