State, regional, and local initiatives share information about the value of pursuing post-high school education or training. Data show that newer jobs demand higher levels of training and education. Systemic challenges like COVID-19 make existing strains more evident. A well-educated workforce connects to a robust economy, and workers benefit throughout their careers. Many partners come together to help with preparing our Florida workforce.
Linking Education, Community, and Economy
Florida’s economy is large and strong, measuring pre-COVID as the world’s 17th largest. Wages in general are highly correlated with education level. Among Florida workers whose income decreased because of the pandemic, 35% expect needing more training to reach or exceed the same level of pay. Florida College Access Network (FCAN) data show that only 41.3% of working-age adult Floridians have a 2-year degree or higher. That increases to 49.3% when including those with certificates. In Collier County, 38.8% of working adults hold a 2-year degree or higher, ranking 19th among Florida counties.
In addition, there are racial and ethnic disparities to overcome. By 2030, it is projected that 54% of Florida’s workforce will be non-White. However, Black, Hispanic, and Native American Floridians are less likely to obtain a high-quality, post-high school degree than their White or Asian peers. Importantly, 90% of Floridians support more accessible post-high school education. And only 20% believe high school students have sufficient resources to pursue future options.
Current State Actions
Florida enacted a commitment to better higher education access. Adopted into law in mid-2019, SAIL to 60 sets a statewide goal that 60% of working-age Floridians have a postsecondary certificate, degree, or other training by 2030. This aligns with ongoing efforts to increase the rate of high school seniors who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) prior to graduation. High school seniors and anyone considering any higher education, including technical training and certificates, are strongly recommended to submit their FAFSA as soon as possible. Collier County Public Schools provide resources about financial aid. In addition, Champions For Learning produced useful, free, virtual tutorials for viewing at any time.
The Florida College Access Network’s Talent Strong Florida originated with the local college access networks (LCANs), regional partners to FCAN, including Future Ready Collier. LCANs approached FCAN with a desire to more cohesively build messaging around educational pathways to career success. Talent Strong Florida uses strategic communication and collaboration to bring attention to educational opportunities and needs.
Get There is a state-level program, organized through the Florida Department of Education, promoting enrollment at Florida’s technical colleges. Through 17 career pathways, students can secure the necessary qualifications for employment, often in less time and at lower cost than via a 2- or 4-year program. These foundations can be applied towards subsequent educational opportunities. The Get There website includes extensive links to resources and a college locator.
Regional and Local Interest
The FutureMakers Coalition, of which Future Ready Collier is a regional member, stated their goal to increase the number of working-age adults in Southwest Florida with a college degree, workforce certificate, or other high-quality credential to 55% by 2025. Working closely with hundreds of partners within and connected to education across the five counties of Glades, Hendry, Lee, Charlotte, and Collier, FutureMakers endeavors to facilitate progression from school to career.
Success importantly involves the local business community. The Greater Naples Chamber, a partner to Future Ready Collier, works with the network to share information with its business members about FAFSA, volunteer and internship openings, and work-based learning. Allegiance between education and business helps foster critical community-level awareness.
Future Ready Collier’s foundational goals include helping all young people graduate from high school with a plan. While a 4-year college or university may not be desirable, necessary, or possible for all, there are countless choices available. With support and access to the right information, students will be equipped to pursue a meaningful career of their choosing. In turn, Collier County benefits from having an engaged, prepared workforce, contributing to lasting regional vitality.
Prepared by Caroline Ridgway of C1B1 Communications.