FutureMakers and WorkForce Now to merge

News-Press Media Group initiative to join forces with regional coalition to transform the workforce by increasing Southwest Florida’s higher education completion to 40 percent by 2025

Michael Jung, president and publisher of the News-Press Media Group announced today that WorkForce Now, an initiative created as a result of the Education Summits produced by his organization, would join the FutureMakers Coalition.

WorkForce Now is a five-county regional research initiative conducted by Florida SouthWestern State College, Florida Gulf Coast University and Hodges University to provide in-kind support and information on regional workforce gaps, skills and characteristics to both educators and the public. Each of these educational institutions is also a part of the FutureMakers Coalition.

The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of college degrees and post-secondary certifications to 40 percent by the year 2025.

“It just makes sense that these two be aligned because the in-kind support WorkForce Now is providing also supports the goal of the FutureMakers Coalition and the various stakeholders across the region,” said Jung. “Increasing our higher-education completion will also increase the skills of our workforce to meet the growing needs of our community.”

WorkForce Now was established in 2013 following the News-Press’s Education Summit in order to start identifying the depth of our local workforce.
Dr. John Meyer, dean of the School of Business and Technology at Florida SouthWestern State College, is an active researcher and author on the WorkForce Now project.

“The quality of our regional workforce is a primary competitive factor in our growth and economic development,” Dr. Meyer said. “We have developed groundbreaking research, and it has been successful in our region and at FSW.”

WorkForce Now deeply studies industries or sectors each year to provide a continuous stream of information from employers to educational institutions, and looks for ways to create dialogue and new partnerships between businesses and educational institutions. To date, WorkForce Now has produced six research papers with findings used in additional WorkForce Now summits. The research includes findings on regional workforce needs, job and employer needs, and education systems.
Under the new arrangement, the FutureMakers Coalition will partner with WorkForce Now as a part of the initiative by providing administrative support, and help to collect data and guide additional research.

“The beauty of this ‘merger’ is that this is work that was already happening, and it’s now being aligned with a larger regional initiative,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “The FutureMakers Coalition’s focus is to align all of the work that’s being done by other organizations and partners in the ‘cradle-to-career’ system at a regional level, and the results of these collaborations will enhance the region’s educational and economic success.”

The FutureMakers Coalition was born out of a two-year regional initiative focused on increasing the number of high-school seniors in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Responding to the Florida College Access Network’s 2012 report that more than $100 million in Pell Grants went unclaimed by Florida students, the initial effort involved a team of more than a dozen stakeholders who invested in high-school seniors through one-on-one and group mentoring, FAFSA workshops and support, and career coaching.

Within a year and with the recommendation of FCAN and Helios, the work of the inaugural FutureMakers program was recognized by Lumina Foundation, an independent private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025. The FutureMakers Coalition benefits from Lumina’s collaborative approach that connects Southwest Florida to renowned national thought-leadership organizations and provides technical and planning assistance, data tools and flexible funding as attainment plans are customized.

About FutureMakers Coalition
The FutureMakers Coalition is working to increase post-secondary certification completion in Southwest Florida and promote the knowledge and skills needed for success in the workplace and in life. Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the Coalition’s goal is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of college degrees and post-secondary certifications from 27 percent to 40 percent by 2025 throughout Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.

As one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment, the FutureMakers Coalition is a regional partnership involving education, government, business, nonprofit and citizen stakeholders, and advocates committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition’s collective effort encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. They are looking for partners from all sectors to invest resources, including time, expertise, funding and more. For more information, visit www.FutureMakersCoalition.com, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected]