FloridaWorks brings innovative training program back to Gainesville


Published: Monday, August 26, 2013 at 5:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 26, 2013 at 5:40 p.m.

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.

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