shirley-toliver_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE — According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate changed only slightly in recent weeks, dropping to 6.7 percent or 10.5 million unemployed people.

But in addition to the ongoing tight labor market, employers continue to struggle with a skills gap, often citing a lack of skills in areas such as problem-solving and critical thinking in potential employees.

The National Association of African Americans in Human Resources of South Florida (NAAAHR) is hoping to do something about it by making an impact on unemployment, job retention and increased professional opportunities through a new program called Career Essentials, which has come to Broward County.

The program was designed to provide training and support to address the critical skills gap, making young professionals in South Florida more competitive. 

Aimed at those 18 to 35 years old, the program includes a series of training sessions in four areas: career assessment, leadership development, career placement support and professional branding.

The mission is to cultivate future leaders and guide young professionals in South Florida on a steady path towards enriched career development. 

“The program is the brainchild of our local board. We wanted to create a training series that would give young professionals the tools they need not just to find jobs but [also to] become business leaders,” said NAAAHR South Florida Chapter President Shirley Toliver. “Participants will receive executive-level assessments and leadership training and, upon completion, have a clear roadmap to success in their chosen fields.”

The first batch of 15 participants for Career Essentials were chosen from among applications submitted from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. They were identified and referred by other South Florida professionals and were asked to submit an application to the pilot program, along with references and a letter stating how they would benefit from the program.

The NAAHR is partnering with local businesses and organizations to provide the high-level training program, which will be free to participants. In addition, Career Essentials sessions will be held at corporations around Broward County so that participants can understand the economic landscape in South Florida and begin to build personal networks.

“A major component of this program is to help these young professionals develop relationships for ongoing mentorship and networking,” Toliver said. “While many positions are advertised, having those inside relationships increases your opportunity of getting in front of the hiring manager and finding out what they are looking for in hiring for specific roles.”

The goal of the NAAAHR of South Florida is to use this program as a pilot and allow for up to 100 participants in the future.

Leaders of the non-profit organization say it values the talents and abilities of its members and seeks to foster an open, cooperative and dynamic environment where professional development, personal growth and leadership potential can thrive.

The group offers quarterly events at locations across South Florida. They include partnership with local and national organizations to increase the presence and leadership ability in minority talent at all levels, across all industries, both nationally and globally, chapter officials said.