Technical Colleges working toward positive perception and enrollment goals
As part of its overall goal to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by the year 2025, the FutureMakers Coalition is piloting a project to determine if coordinated exposure and collaboration could increase the positive perception of technical education in Lee County. The project also aims to make progress toward technical education enrollment goals throughout Southwest Florida.
Through Lumina Foundation, the FutureMakers Coalition provided a $8,600 grant to fund strategies to be used to achieve the goals by partners including Cape Coral Technical College, Fort Myers Technical College and the Southwest Florida Public Service Academy (Lee Technical Colleges), the School District of Lee County Adult and Career Education Department and the Student Services Department.
In a recent interim report, these partners reported that the stated goal of raising the positive perception of technical education showed a 19 percent increase of interest by students who were previously unsure about attending a technical school. The second stated goal of increasing enrollment is still to be determined.
The group’s plan was a three-step approach including identifying potential future students within the School District of Lee County, communicating the plan to the intended audience and other key stakeholders, and inviting the students of the 13 local high schools to visit the Lee Technical College campuses.
Working with the high school guidance departments, 1,594 students were identified as potential future technical college enrollees. Directors of the local technical colleges presented the plan to the high school principals, assistant principals for curriculum, school counselors and career specialists. The presentations were followed up with electronic communications.
Of the original 1,594 students identified, to date more than 290 have made campus visits and have been added to a database for the technical colleges to track future enrollments.
Students’ feedback through post-visit surveys included that they feel technical schools are a good way to find better paying jobs and learn specific trades. They also liked that classes are geared toward their future career choices, tuition costs and the ability to obtain a certificate faster than four year degrees.
“This is a great start in moving the needle toward positive perceptions of technical education available in Lee County and increasing enrollment,” said Tessa LeSage, who as director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation oversees the FutureMakers Coalition. “The technical colleges will continue to identify students as well as further strengthen their communications, continue to conduct quality visits to the Lee Technical Colleges and evaluate the impact of these efforts. The project is designed for replication and scaling throughout the region if it meets the goals.”
In 2016, Southwest Florida was one of 75 metropolitan areas selected as part of Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment to increase post-secondary attainment nationwide by increasing the number of working age adults with degrees and certifications.
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit www.futuremakerscoalition.com, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected].