Executive Vice President, Florida TaxWatch
Tony Carvajal was born to immigrant parents who came to the United States from Cuba pursuing opportunity. They had no money and no idea where they might land, but knew they were headed to freedom. Growing up as a first-generation Cuban in Miami, Tony spoke Spanish before he spoke English. While he struggled with reading early in his education, he persevered and became the first in his family to go to college. Tony credits his parents, Florida’s education system, and mentors and supporters who showed him what it meant to work hard, to believe in yourself, and most importantly, to have a network that could introduce you to opportunity.
"It’s not that folks don’t have the capacity to dream, it’s that they are under-invited to opportunities. If you want to change a generation, you change it through a whole bunch of things, but education’s at the core and then, connecting them to networks is the rest of the way."
Inspired by his mother, Tony cast a vision for his own future. He took his passion for connecting business with education and training, and launched his own successful consulting firm, spending 20 years working with trade and professional associations across the country.
Throughout his career and in his current role at Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Tony sees the impact on today’s students when businesses are engaged and driving conversation in new ways. Now, he works with Florida businesses to advocate for a set of principles focused on increasing prosperity and quality of life in Florida. A critical priority for this work is building connections between employers and educational institutions, and creating pathways between postsecondary, workforce and job-training programs.
"The marketplace is much more demanding than a professor ever will be, and students that aren’t ready to compete tomorrow will suffer pains much more than any ‘F’ can ever inflict."
Among the Chamber’s many programs are a focus on supporting the business community’s efforts to connect talent with available jobs, all in support of the state’s fastest growing industries.
"When you think about how quickly the world of ‘work’ moves, we’ve got to think about education also providing that speed to re-tool, retrain and re-assign."