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Polk State’s New Human Resources Program Providing Candidates for Job Openings

February 20, 2023 News

If you’ve worked at any place at any time, you’ve probably started and ended your tenure with human resources. The department handles everything from hiring and firing to salaries and benefits. But it’s sometimes hard to find people who want to work in that field. This is one reason why Polk State College started a concentration and certificate in Human Resources Management. 

“We know that HR managers and specialists continue to make the list of occupations in demand in Polk County, as well as in the state,” said Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti. “Additionally, Polk State continues to hear from its industry partners and advisory board members about the critical need for highly skilled human resources professionals.” 

To help meet demand and serve the needs of the community, Polk State developed a Human Resources Management degree concentration within the Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision Management and an advanced certificate “to provide the education and training necessary to create a strong talent pipeline for the local workforce,” Falconetti said.  

“Members of Human Resources’ teams wear many hats and play critical roles in the operations and culture of an organization. Key roles include recruitment, training and retention, as well as fostering a positive culture through enhancing employee engagement, productivity and morale,” she said. “For employees specifically, Human Resources assists with everything from onboarding to benefits to providing guidance and solutions if issues arise in the workplace.” 

About the Program

Maria Lehoczky, Polk State’s Director of Business Programs, emphasized that this program is needed. “The students will benefit because Polk State will provide them with the quality curriculum and support services to prepare for the SHRM certification, a revered professional designation within the industry, and ultimately a rewarding career in human resources as HR specialists and managers.” 

The first Human Resources Management classes started in Fall 2022 with 15 students seeking degrees and 16 pursuing the advanced certificate, Falconetti said. “Students are also enrolling in the program for the upcoming Spring 2023 semester. Several of these students already work in the field of HR. They have returned to pursue the opportunity to prepare for SHRM certification.” 

Students who attain the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) industry-recognized credential are known to be masters “of core competencies with the ability to apply HR principles in the real-world setting,” Falconetti said. “SHRM-certified professionals report higher earnings and the certificate as a key factor in their career advancement, enhancing their credibility and illustrating their commitment to the HR profession.” 

HR Job Market

Entry wages for HR specialists and managers are approximately $39,500 and $66,500, with median wages reaching $56,000 and $102,500, respectively, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. 

Wages may be one reason there are a lack of candidates for open jobs. Falconetti points to another: “Currently, the HR career field is graying with many long time HR professionals retiring. There may not be as many people looking at this career because entry-level and median pay has not risen as quickly as the cost of living. However, the field of HR provides many rewarding opportunities including upward mobility.”  

Many companies still have their own HR departments, but some large companies have created regional HR departments. But even those may retain “divisional or local HR staff to improve response time, recruiting and retention,” Falconetti said.  

Companies like Publix that have headquarters in Polk County will likely have an HR presence locally, she said. But “with companies like Amazon or Wal-Mart, the main HR office is located at their headquarters location, with a smaller branch HR office located in the area.” 

Polk State is partnering with MidFlorida Credit Union, Citrus Connection, AdventHealth, the City of Winter Haven and several area employers “to provide students with internships and experiential learning opportunities,” she said. “Some students have even transitioned from their internships into full-time positions with our partners.”  

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