Palm Beach County's sales tax increase means job opportunities, officials say
Palm Beach County officials want to put thousands of people to work over the next decade on more than $2 billion in construction projects funded by a sales-tax increase.
At least 46,000 temporary and permanent jobs will be created, according to county estimates.
Officials say they are just starting their recruitment efforts, but sales-tax dollars are already being put to use. A crew is resurfacing a stretch of Military Trail. Work will begin in the next two weeks on installing a new roof at Carver Middle School in Delray Beach and repaving Del Prado Elementary School in Boca Raton.
The money comes from a voter-approved increase in the county sales tax from 6 cents per dollar to 7 cents that took effect Jan. 1. Schools get half of the $2.7 billion the increase is expected to generate in the next 10 years, while the county gets 30 percent and the cities share 20 percent.
Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker said she wants to make sure the people paying the higher tax get the jobs fixing up their community.
“We are reaching out to the unemployed and underemployed to make sure they have opportunities,” she said.
Average wages for typical construction jobs vary from $13.59 an hour for a floor layer to $20.80 for a welder, according to data from CareerSource Palm Beach County, a nonprofit employment agency. The county’s median wage is $16.93, according to Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity.
Both skilled and unskilled labor will be required, and contracts are contingent on firms agreeing to hire local workers, Baker said.
“The whole goal is that we give preference to local hires. We hire you, and we expect you to hire local,” she said.
CareerSource Palm Beach County is ramping up its efforts to recruit workers for construction vocational training, which typically requires less than two years to complete. Apprenticeships, where employees learn skills on the job, can take another four years.
Some of the vocational programs are offered at night, allowing students to continue working while they train, said Michael Corbit, director of business development.
“We are hoping if the candidates are eligible we could help pay for training, and it leads to an apprenticeship,” Corbit said. “They can transition into another career.”
With scholarships and subsidies, some training is available at no cost, according to CareerSource.
Demand for employees in the construction industry is surging as the economy rebounds and aging workers retire, said Michelle Anaya DePotter, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America’s chapter in West Palm Beach.
“Both sides are busy right now — the public and the private side,” DePotter said. “We have a workforce shortage not just in Palm Beach County but across the country.”
Palm Beach County added 2,800 jobs in construction in May over a year ago, according to the latest figures available from Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity. Nearly 90 percent of construction firms said they plan to hire more workers by September, according to a survey conducted by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida in March.
Palm Beach County has approved more than 14,000 new homes in its growing western communities.
Part of the challenge, DePotter said, is countering what she considers to be misperceptions that construction work is hot, dirty and undesirable.
“There is a lot of money to be made in construction,” she said.
Looking for a job?
CareerSource Palm Beach County is holding job fairs to help fill jobs that will be created by the sales tax increase. Here are the ones planned this month. More information is available at careersourcepbc.com.
- Palm Beach State College Lake Worth Campus, 4200 N. Congress Ave., Lake Worth, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. July 11
- Lake Shore Civic Center, 1224 SW Avenue E Place, Belle Glade, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. July 12
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