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New Career Source Pinellas CEO talks righting the ship amid investigations

Megan Holmes

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Click the arrow above to listen to the full conversation between Catalyst Publisher Joe Hamilton and CareerSource CEO Jennifer Brackney.

In January 2018, the first of what would become a nine month series of investigative reporting aimed at uncovering unlawful practices at CareerSource Pinellas was published by the Tampa Bay Times. Much of that initial reporting focused on the practices established under CEO Ed Peachey. This began what CareerSource employees refer to as “the storm,” which culminated in the ousting of Peachey, FBI investigations, and state and federal audits of the agency. Nearly 200 articles came out of “the storm.”

Very few, however, have come since Jennifer Brackney was appointed to right the ship. A 26-year veteran of workforce development, Brackney had been employed at CareerSource during Peachey’s tenure; she had been focused on grant writing and management of special projects before being selected to lead the agency after Peachey’s departure. What started on an a week-long interim basis turned into a month, and the months turned into a full year.

On Nov. 1, Brackney was chosen to be CEO of CareerSource Pinellas on a permanent, full-time basis.

“The change,” she said, “has been fabulous. The work aligns very well with the work I did in Illinois for many years.”

But righting the ship at CareerSource hasn’t always been smooth sailing – it took an “all hands on deck approach,” Brackney said. “What I mean is all of us worked together to make sure that the organization and the people that we serve continued to receive their services, the way that we were supposed to be providing them.

“Parallel to that, what we were doing was looking at all of our processes, our desk guides, our SOPs [standard operation procedures]. We’re digging down into the grassroots of what we do and making sure all of those activities align with state and federal guidelines. It’s pretty straightforward how you’re supposed to operate these programs, you just have to make sure the day-to-day operations align with those.”

Despite the ongoing investigations into CareerSource’s policies during Peachey’s tenure, Brackney said the organization was well run. “There were a few things that we were doing that would not be considered best practices,” Brackney explained. “We took a look at those and changed them immediately … we’ve aligned ourselves with the state, we’ve aligned ourselves with the Federal Department of Labor, who actually oversees what we do. Really, we’ve moved forward.”

Brackney is most proud of the strong leadership team she has begun building at CareerSource Pinellas, and the “back-to-basics” approach to workforce development, starting with reconnecting with the community and local employers.

“Part of what we’ve really had to do is mend fences and build those relationships back,” Brackney said. “Reach out to the community so that they know we’re here and we’re here to support the efforts of workforce development in the Pinellas County area.”

CareerSource’s big focus in the upcoming months will be developing apprenticeship concepts with employers, and its next career fair, to be held at the St. Petersburg College EpiCenter. The last career fair held by CareerSource brought 300 job seekers and 50 employers together under one roof.

For more information on CareerSource’s upcoming healthcare career fair, click here.

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