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Workforce Development in Florida: A Literature Review

Workforce development is crucial to long term economic vitality, but developing effective policies involves complex interactions between local, state, and federal education boards, retraining programs, universities, firms, and more. Further complicating this dynamic are the destabilizing effects of globalization and technological innovation which perpetually change the skills needed in the labor market. By examining the academic literature on workforce development, insights emerge that help account for these complexities, and may enlighten the crafting of effective policies. In particular, the literature calls for new approaches to early childhood learning, primary and secondary education, mentorship programs, and worker retraining. Designing effective workforce development policy requires drawing on the wealth of knowledge provided by academic and scientific research; the purpose here is to stitch the relevant literature together so as to develop a comprehensive approach to workforce development.

James Heckman is a Nobel laureate in Economics and one of the leading labor market economists. In his 2000 paper “Policies to Foster Human Capital,” Heckman provides a comprehensive analysis of labor development policy, calling attention to important failures while providing alternative policy suggestions. In particular, Heckman (2000) stresses the primacy of early childhood in laying the foundation for continued success in life. Building on neuroscientific evidence and numerous longitudinal studies, Heckman & Masterov (2007) make the economic argument for investing more in young children, showing how at current levels of spending, government agencies underinvest in the young and overinvest in the old. A large body of research supports this argument: studies have shown that an early childhood program can from improve cognition, to increase educational attainment, and even reduce the likelihood of teen parenthood. Taking a closer look at an influential longitudinal study, the Abecedarian Project, will be helpful in showing how early intervention leads to such effective outcomes.

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