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e have a workforce problem. Two out of three jobs in Florida will require a cre­dential beyond high school by 2025. Sev­enty of Florida’s fastest growing occupa­tions need a postsecondary credential. The top 10 fastest growing jobs in Florida require credentials beyond high school. Aging out of the workforce in the next six years will be 2.4 million skilled workers. Nearly 58 percent of Southwest Florida’s working-age adults do not have a creden­tial beyond high school.
But change is happening. FutureMakers Coalition, in partner­ship with the Elsa and Peter Soderberg Charitable Foundation and the Lee Coun­ty Industrial Development Authority, has moved the needle in increasing the num­ber of skilled workers in Southwest Flori­da.
During the phase 1 investment of $200,000 from the foundation and a one­
time, three-year investment of$500,000 from the IDA from June 2022-January 2023, we have expanded opportunities for students throughout Southwest Florida by removing financial barriers for degree seekers at Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida Southwestern State College. Policies and practices to improve student support have been developed.
The impact of the Foundation’s chal­lenge grant has again exceeded our initial expectations.Not only do adults in South­west Florida have greater opportunity to earn a degree and transform their lives, but we are learning from them to develop policies and practices to remove barriers to degree completion and reduce the number of stop-outs in the future.
The partnership between FutureMak­ers Coalition, the foundation, and the In­dustrial Development Authority lever­aged the Southwest Florida Talent Hub designation project designed to accelerate efforts to increase the number of skilled workers in our region by removing finan­cial barriers to completing a degree. This partnership took the form of debt-forgive­ness atFGCU and a fund to remove financial barriers to returning at FSW. The funds were valuable tools in supporting those returning to complete a degree and better understanding and eventually ending the stop-out problem through policy and practice changes. FSW also developed the GED Pathway program. FutureMakers Coalition’s Graduate! SWFL Navigator program expanded to recruit and remove barriers for recon­nectors (adults who need to return to education and training programs to get into a well-paying job). These collective advancements foster collaboration, ar­ticulation, peer learning, and results.

Since June 2022:

  • 422 additional adults have a Futu­reMakers Coalition Navigator to walk alongside them as they reconnect to education and training programs to get into a well-paying career
  • 212 degrees have been awarded at FGCU (622 total since pilot project)
  • SW has provided support to 45 students via the Transforming SWFL 2025 grant
  • 28 students, who would have otherwise been dropped for nonpayment, have received financial support at Flori­da Southwestern State College with Last Mile & Gap funding
  • 10 students have received support to enter the new GED Pathway program (28 total enrolled) FSW has entered into partnership agreements with public school systems to share data to help GED graduates see FSW as a viable op­tion

FGCU in partnership with Future­Makers Coalition at Collaboratory lever­aged our pilot project to help secure $22.9 million dollars from the Depart­ment of Commerce to implement the Southwest Florida Equitable Jobs Pipe­line as part of the Economic Develop­ment Administration’s Good Jobs Chal­lenge Grant. This was the largest grant in FGCU’s history and a testament to what
your investment in our collective work is doing for our region.

We are incredibly proud of what this partnership accomplished and remain committed to acting on the actionable data identified through this grant to con­tinue to identify, contact, and support stop-out students.