FloridaWorks brings innovative training program back to Gainesville

FloridaWorks is implementing a training program that teaches job skills, but teaches participants the skills they need to create jobs. This program gives participants the training and knowledge that they need to start their own businesses.  

By Anthony Clark | The Gainesville Sun  

FloridaWorks is trying to show that workforce training money spent on entrepreneurship training is a good investment of taxpayer dollars, said Kim Tesch-Vaught, executive director.

After starting a pilot program to train educated professionals who are unemployed or underemployed in how to start a business around research inventions, the local workforce agency has expanded the program to other workforce regions.

Now, Startup Quest is returning to Gainesville for a second go-round. A workshop for interested participants will be held from 12:30-4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Gainesville Country Club, 7500 SW 35th Way.

Traditional training programs focus on job skills and certifications, but Tesch-Vaught said FloridaWorks is trying to demonstrate that training people to start a business creates more jobs.

“Sometimes the job that you land -- especially in this economy as we’re moving forward and the world is changing -- may be the job you are creating for yourself,” she said.

FloridaWorks developed the program in 2011, along with the University of Florida Office of Technology Licensing, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, 14 entrepreneurs and 12 investors with a $175,000 grant from Workforce Florida Inc.

The entrepreneurs mentored 83 participants to develop business plans for simulated companies based on real technologies developed at UF.

The participants went on to form 14 companies that created 26 jobs. They included people who turned a hobby or side business into a main source of income such as an online pet clothing boutique. Three graduates licensed a catheter strap invention from UF to form North Florida Medical Solutions.

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the agency a $12 million grant in 2012 to expand the program to seven other workforce regions in Florida.

So far, 184 people have completed training in three other regions, and more than 600 people showed up for an introductory workshop in Broward County.

For Wednesday’s introductory workshop, FloridaWorks will take the first 450 people to RSVP through Wednesday morning at StartupQuest.org and is encouraging people to complete an application in advance.


Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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