Four hundred students floated through Sarasota’s second-annual “State of Jobs” conference on Thursday, a sign that regional labor gains may be spreading throughout the workforce.

As was the case last year, the conference organized by the Young Professionals Group of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and held at Suncoast Technical College was intended to educate younger workers.

“We identified and realized that career exploration is a gap” for the region’s young people, said Mimi Fleck, the chamber’s YPG coordinator. “What we are hoping to do here is raise awareness.”

Students from Booker High, Venice High and six other local schools listened to opening remarks from Donal O’Shea, the president of New College of Florida, and then broke up into five career path groups depending on interest.

The tracks included hospitality and tourism; manufacturing and engineering; health care; business and finance; and technology, with an emphasis on digital marketing.

Representatives from local businesses, including IMG Academy, were on hand, and educational institutions in Southwest Florida also were featured.

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee is now accepting students for a wide range of four-year bachelor’s degrees as well as master’s degrees. USF students previously would have to travel to one of the school’s larger campuses in Tampa or St. Petersburg to take classes toward a four-year degree.

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