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Looking at the Big Picture


Highlands Today correspondent

Published: July 11, 2016

SEBRING When Donna Doubleday goes to work each day, it's the rest of us she's helping to succeed.

The President and CEO of CareerSource Heartland has her finger on the pulse of economic and workforce development in the Heartland, helping to orchestrate all the moving parts that create a thriving workforce, for businesses and job seekers alike.

What's the job market like lately? Doubleday said she's seen positive trends. Many different industries are posting jobs, not just the most common ones, such as agriculture. Smaller family-owned businesses are starting to post jobs again, those who haven't for a long time. We are also starting to see businesses that are willing to raise their wage rates, which we haven't seen for a while, she added.

Doubleday has worked up to her position from within the organization, now a 501(c)3 non-profit, for over 20 years. She started in 1993 as a vocation assessment specialist, then moved through the ranks in career counseling, quality assurance, supervision and regional management. Later she became COO, president, and finally CEO/president in January 2014.

Doubleday, who hails from New England, has seen a lot of changes over those years, including several name swaps (it started as a private industry council and changed from Heartland Workforce to CareerSource Heartland in 2014). The switch to CareerSource was a branding decision made by the state of Florida.

We had 24 different logos, 24 different names, she said of the workforce agencies across the state. Somebody coming into the state didn't know where to go. Businesses moving into other areas didn't know.

Since taking the reins in 2014, Doubleday said they've had success with their number one goal: quashing some of the common misconceptions about the agency. For example, they are not the unemployment office. They are not a temp agency. They are not a government office.

These days the challenges include growing the talent locally, finding the talent locally, identifying what businesses really need and putting in place the training and the pipelines that will be available to them, Doubleday said.

Doubleday's march to her current position started right out of high school, with her first job teaching work habits and work ethics to people with disabilities. Later she studied vocational assessment and vocational evaluation, labor marketing and even ergonomics in labor.

Did I ever think I would be a president/CEO? Absolutely not! she smiled.

It was her husband's career that brought her down to the Heartland, and she is deeply involved with the community as a member and former chair of the IDA-EDC, a board member for Ridge Area ARC, and a member of the Hardee county economic development authority board. Her umbrella covers four counties: Highlands, Hardee, DeSoto and, most recently, Okeechobee, but Doubleday is a Highlands County resident.

As the leader made her way to the career center of the Sebring location at 5901 US 27 N, Suite 1, job seekers busily searched on computers and browsed through books on subjects such as how to write a better resume.

Failing to present a top notch resume is one of the biggest mistakes job seekers make, Doubleday stressed. You have 15 seconds to 30 max to really capture the employer's attention, she said. That means foregoing telling your life story and emphasizing key words that employers are looking for.

A second mistake job seekers make is failing to dress for success for every step in the process. (Potential employers) don't want to see you in flip flops and shorts even coming in to ask for an application, she emphasized.

The third no-no is going into the interview unprepared. People don't do much research on the company they are looking to apply for, she explained, adding that when they are asked why they are a good fit or why they want to work for that particular company, they don't know what to say.

It's advice job seekers should listen to, since Doubleday knows very well what local employers are looking for. CareerSource Heartland offers a number of services to companies who are hiring, including recruiting services, basic screening and assistance with training and onboarding.

In fact, the same training facilities in the building that are used to help job seekers improve their technical and soft skills so they can get that job can also be used by businesses to train their new staff if they don't have an adequate training facility of their own.

What Doubleday enjoys most about she does is working with community organizations, educational institutions, government and more to make the big picture a better picture for employers and workers in the Heartland.

We have a dedicated board of directors, a tremendous staff, and numerous partners, she said, who are all working together to tackle the biggest issues facing workforce development.

We don't face these challenges alone, she said.


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