Orlando Market Commentaries are a series of timely analyses produced by the Orlando Economic Partnership’s Market Intelligence team. Commentaries are typically associated with a major data release or cover areas key to advancing the Partnership’s goal of Broad-based Prosperity®.

Colleges and universities in the Orlando region produce approximately 60,000 graduates each year.
This talent pipeline allows area companies to grow and thrive and attracts others to locate in our region.
Continued collaboration between education providers and industry is key to ensuring a high quality, sustainable workforce well into the future.

Across the region, colleges and universities are celebrating the class of 2024. For graduates, ceremonies represent the culmination of many years of hard work and the start of the next phase of their lives – and for the region, an important milestone in maintaining our status as one of America’s fastest-growing regional economies.

Enabling the Region’s Growth

Approximately 60,000 students graduate from colleges and universities in the Orlando region each year, in many different fields and from many different institutions.

Many of these graduates begin their careers locally – joining the local labor force and contributing to a regional economy that is producing jobs at more than twice the national rate. Between 2019 and 2023, the Orlando region grew its private sector employment base by 10.4% while the U.S. expanded by 3.9%.

Such robust job growth becomes unsustainable if companies run out of available workers. In Orlando, however, growth in the regional labor force growth has largely kept pace, growing 9.4% over the same period.

This is Orlando’s untold story - the region’s ability to absorb new workers into our economy, allowing companies to grow while avoiding a significant increase in unemployment.

The region’s supply of new graduates is a key input to maintaining this delicate balance. In 2023, Orlando produced more graduates as a share of population than all but four other large regions in the U.S.

In the war for talent, Orlando’s above-average production of graduates represents a competitive advantage against other locations. Year after year, corporate executives and site selectors rank workforce availability as the single biggest factor driving business location decisions – and in Orlando find an uncommon ability to produce vocational talent that aligns with industry needs.

In 2023, Orlando produced more certificates and associate’s degrees per capita than any other region except Los Angeles, with key concentrations in the high-demand career fields of business, healthcare, computer science, and engineering.

A Long-Term Challenge

Yet talent development is a long-term proposition. Challenges with staff recruitment and skills shortages are pervasive throughout the country, while demographic trends point to a sustained future decline in labor force participation.

As a fast-growing market adding 1,000 new residents every week - with particularly strong net in-migration among the coveted 25-34 age group - Orlando’s challenges are likely to be less acute than elsewhere.

Still, a concerted effort will be needed to meet Orlando’s ever-growing job demand. Even as a leader in education, there is a gap across all fields between the supply of conferred degrees and certificates in Orlando and the number of entry-level job postings that match those degrees.

How Orlando is Responding

Building a workforce that meets the needs of industry both today and tomorrow requires a multi-faceted approach. It requires retaining the best and brightest from our own colleges and universities, attracting talent from elsewhere in the country, upskilling existing employees, and, critically, industry partnering with colleges to develop curriculum that builds pathways to quality jobs.

Much of this work is already underway. Valencia College, for example, has invested heavily in Accelerated Skills Training programs to prepare workers for careers in high-demand areas in relatively shorts amount of time; the University of Central Florida has partnered with CareerSource Central Florida to launch the Education Industry Collaboration to unite education with industry needs: and the Partnership’s own Upskill Orlando initiative is working to create upward mobility opportunities by encouraging employers to develop skills-based talent strategies.

Orlando is projected to be Florida’s fastest-growing large job market over the next decade, with one in five new jobs in the state created in our region.

Many of these new jobs will be filled by graduates, underlining the key role education providers play in shaping the future of our region. Continued collaboration with industry will ensure Orlando’s economy continues to thrive.