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January 2016

FutureMakers partnership fast-tracks CNA careers

By | Press Releases
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groupJennifer Welling’s children were listening when she advocated the importance of a post-secondary education. One is attending college, the second, a high schooler, is also on a similar track.

At 44, it’s now Welling’s turn. Her children insisted she attend Tuesday evening’s information and qualification session at Career Source in Fort Myers to learn more about becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and available tuition and scholarship assistance.

“As much as I’ve pushed my children to get an education, I’ve put it off for me,” she said. “Now my kids are pushing it back on me. It’s my time.”

Welling, who works in the restaurant industry, was one of nearly 60 men and women participating in the recruitment program, a collaboration between Lee Memorial Health System, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, CareerSource Southwest Florida, and Fort Myers and Cape Coral technical colleges, all partners in the FutureMakers Coalition.

The groups are offering tuition assistance and scholarship opportunities and are pushing for applicants for February classes at the schools. Lee Memorial hopes to hire as many CNAs as possible and the schools hope to get students trained and working in their field at Lee Memorial or other medical facilities in Lee County.

The CNA certification programs are designed to get students from the classroom to work in as little as six weeks. In addition to the hospital’s benefits package, CNAs at Lee Memorial have the opportunity to transfer after six months and receive tuition assistance toward associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees and specialized certification training.

“A CNA is a stepping stone to becoming a registered nurse and a career in healthcare,” Michelle Zech, Lee Memorial’s human resources business partner, told the group. “It gets your foot in the door.”

By attending the event, participants, ages 18 to over 50, became “FutureMakers,” taking the first step toward post-secondary education and the coalition’s goal of increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with college degrees or industry certifications. Lee Memorial, CareerSource and the two technical colleges are partners in the FutureMakers Coalition, a five-county regional collaboration involving education, government, business, nonprofit and citizen stakeholders and advocates.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect,” Zech said afterward. “I thought maybe five or 10 people might show up. It was a phenomenal turnout and we’re pleased with the candidates.”

The group included stay-at-home mothers, restaurant employees, a school bus driver, an Army veteran and CareerSource clients. Some like Katira Davis, 22, of Fort Myers, are already working in entry-level healthcare positons.

Davis is a medical technician assistant at a center for the disabled. She’d hoped to land a higher-paying job after graduating from technical college but said many employers wanted six years’ experience.

“I make just enough to live on and couldn’t afford tuition to become a CNA,” she said. “There’s no advancement where I am and I want to keep moving up in the medical field.”

Human resource employees from Lee Memorial conducted brief interviews with applicants to determine their ambition, qualifications and eligibility for tuition and scholarship assistance. Zech said the majority of attendees would be considered.

The event was a prime example of groups working together to overcome challenges and reach shared goals according to Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the backbone organization for the FutureMakers Coalition.

“This collaborative effort let us reach out to the unemployed and underemployed and provide them with information and financial assistance toward a better-paying job,” she said. “By bringing these organizations together in one program we were able to eliminate any duplication of services, maximize resources, and fill classroom vacancies that will lead to more certifications. Ultimately it helps meet workforce needs of local employers and expands employment opportunities to Southwest Florida residents through education.”

Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the FutureMakers 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. The coalition is committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners like Michelle Macom who attended Tuesday’s program.

“It’s probably silly someone my age is going back to school again,” said Macom, a 47-year-old mother of nine and recent divorcee. “I didn’t have time to have a steady job.”

The Fort Myers woman had started training as a medical assistant more than a decade ago and even made the dean’s list when she had to drop out to care for her ailing father-in-the-law.

“Any financial help I could get would be phenomenal because I don’t want to start my new life in debt,” she said.

Jovani Mendez, 18, recently graduated from East Lee County High School, and with both parents unemployed couldn’t afford post-secondary education. He wants to become a nurse practitioner and hopes to receive CNA tuition assistance to begin his medical career.

CNAs at Lee Memorial work just three days a week.

“This would help me get a quick job while I study and provide for my family,” Mendez said. “It will give me money for gas. I’d be so happy to get a job. I just graduated from high school and everyone wants experience.”

Crystal Mendoza, a 32-year-old Lehigh resident, calls herself “young and dumb” for not taking advantage of an academic scholarship to Florida SouthWestern State College after graduating from Cypress High.

“I would have been the first generation in my family to have a college degree,” she said. “Since then, there have been barriers standing in my way. I’m a single mother and have been dealing with medical issues since I was 21.”

Nursing, she said, has been a long-time passion, and solidified during regular hospital visits for dialysis and eventually a kidney transplant on Dec. 3.

“Being sick I wasn’t able to go to school to become a nurse,” she said. “I worked but eventually had to stop because of my illness. I want to be an inspiration to my daughter and show her you can follow your dreams if you keep pushing through. I want to be a registered nurse and help other people. I’d love to work in the transplant unit.”

At 25, Dorine Murph has held a variety of jobs, working in security, as a manager of a gas station and currently as a chef in a restaurant. “I make good money but it’s not a long-term career,” she said.

Sierra Burton, 29, an eight-year Army veteran who specialized in supply logistics, sees completion of CNA requirements as a stepping stone to a career in healthcare.

“My mom’s a nurse and my brother is a nurse practitioner,” she said. “It’s been really difficult to find a job.”

Welling also hopes to work her way up from CNA certification.

“I want to go all the way in healthcare,” she said. “My long-term goal is to work in hospice. My mother and other family members had cancer and I took care of them. This is the key to getting my foot in the door.”

For more information on how to get the tuition assistance to become a CNA, contact Career Source at 239-931-8200, or email [email protected]

The FutureMakers Coalition is one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment. Residents are encouraged to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa Lesage at [email protected].

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Glades County Regional Training Center receives $50,000 grant

By | Press Releases
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The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, a FutureMakers Coalition partner, has awarded the Glades County Regional Training Center a $50,000 Community Impact Grant.

The grant will be used to install a much needed telecommunications network to the Center including Wi-Fi and Internet so that training classes may begin.

“For the first time ever the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is providing a grant in Glades County with the potential for real change around developing workforce and supporting economic development in Glades and the surrounding area,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.  “Our hope is that by providing these resources and getting the training center up and running, more businesses as well as individuals will benefit and more FutureMakers Coalition partners will come on board to support the training center and increase the post-secondary attainment of working age adults in Southwest Florida.”

According to Glades County Manager Paul Carlisle this is the last piece of funding needed to open the Center and get training programs up and running.

“This funding is vital to be able to begin utilizing the Center as it was meant to be,” said Carlisle. “Now we will be able to begin our training programs to start making an impact on not only Glades and Hendry counties, but our region as a whole.”

The new 40,000-square-foot Glades County Regional Training Center represents the future for Glades and Hendry residents to improve their job outlook and marketability by training for state- and national certifications needed by companies throughout Southwest Florida and the Heartland region. Both counties are included in the FutureMakers Coalition, an initiative to transform the workforce by increasing the number of degree and certificate holders from 27 percent to 40 percent by 2025.

The manufacturing training center aligns with the mission of FutureMakers and is one of the first examples of the coalition’s emphasis on creating collaborations between government, educators, area businesses and community stakeholders to offer certification training in skills needed by regional employers. Polk State College, Florida SouthWestern State College and Palm Beach State College are working cooperatively to establish curricula.

“Roughly 80 percent of young adults in Florida enter the job market without necessary skills,” said Carlisle. “Manufacturers in the South Central Florida/Southwest Florida regions are facing the perfect storm when it comes to workforce recruitment, training and retention.”

Carlisle said companies are caught between the retirement and succession of their current workforce, largely due to age and changing technology in their plants. There is a tremendous and immediate need for skills trades and certificate based training to supply the needed trained workforce for just the existing companies in the area.

Carlisle wants to see high school students, out-of-school youth (ages 16-24), veterans, TANF recipients and others in the Glades service area who are unemployed or underemployed receive training. The training would be comprised of soft skills training and stackable certifications that can lead to advanced training and employment opportunities in manufacturing and logistics in such a way that they can step on and off the training path until they reach a level of employment where they can provide a sustainable lifestyle for themselves and their families. Carlisle also wants to make additional training opportunities available to incumbent employees for advancement, so that a continuous pipeline of entry level positions are created and there is trained staff to fill those positions.

“This is the way to get more people certified in the trades,” he said. “If we don’t have tradespeople we don’t have a house, a working air conditioner or auto mechanic.”

Tradespeople are the backbone of many major industries. Construction jobs require skilled labor, employees certified in plumbing, electrical work, HVAC installation, and more. The training center will offer fast-track routes to certification with requirements completed as early as six months to two years depending on the program.

The center also houses office space for CareerSource, a state program that pays for certification and college training for the unemployed, provides relocation assistance, on-the-job training and hiring incentives for businesses.

“The center is the pinnacle that turns things around for us,” said Carlisle. “Not everyone is going to college. This is exactly what the FutureMakers Coalition is looking for.”

The center, midway between Florida’s East and Gulf coasts, will initially target residents of rural Glades and Hendry counties and eventually expand its reach to provide certification and specialized training for residents and businesses throughout Southwest Florida.

“We’re not going to bring manufacturing companies here unless we have a steady skilled workforce,” he said. “We feel it will happen when businesses realize there are talented employees in this area.”

The training center can also decrease downtime for manufacturers establishing a location within the industrial park location. Carlisle said employees can train on the company’s equipment within the warehouse while a manufacturer completes build-out then moves to its new location.

“Everything is in place and businesses don’t have to jump through hoops,” Carlisle said. “We’re ready to get our residents to work.”


Learn How to Begin a Career in Health Care at Informational Event

By | News
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Numerous local openings for Certified Nursing Assistants and tuition assistance available

CareerSource Southwest Florida, Lee Memorial Health System, Fort Myers Technical College and the Southwest Florida Community Foundation – all FutureMakers Coalition partners – are teaming up to hold an informational event for prospective students to learn about careers as Certified Nursing Assistants.

The event will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 19 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at CareerSource Southwest Florida, located at 4150 Ford Street Extension in Fort Myers.

Anyone interested in getting a start with a career in health care is encouraged to attend. The goal is to find interested students, get their tuition and related fees paid for so that they are ready for a new career in just one year.

Careers in health care continue to be in high demand, and CNAs benefit from tremendous opportunities with leading organizations, such as Lee Memorial Health System, that offer high wages as well as benefits such as insurance, vacation and tuition assistance for continuing education, according to Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the backbone organization of the FutureMakers Coalition. “This is a perfect example of how these FutureMakers Coalition partners are working together to create greater opportunities throughout the region,” LeSage said.

“We currently have numerous openings for CNAs at Lee Memorial Health System,” said Jon Cecil, chief human resources officer at Lee Memorial Health System. “We have a great need for responsible, caring and compassionate CNAs to work with our patients across Southwest Florida.”

Representatives and recruiters from LMHS, CareerSource and FMTC will be on hand to explore career options and discuss CNA qualifications, tuition assistance and scholarship opportunities with prospective candidates.

“This event is great opportunity for individuals to come in and sit down with a Lee Memorial representative and explore career options”, said Amy Furlow, CareerSource Southwest Florida’s center supervisor.  “What a great way to start out 2016 with an opportunity to start a healthcare career with our area’s number one healthcare provider.  Lee Memorial Health System is truly an Employer of Choice,” said Furlow.

“We are actively seeking candidates to join our team as soon as they graduate with their CNA credentials,” added Cecil.

For more information, call 239-424-3500.

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Infographic: Boom In Certificates

By | News, Report
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Source: AACC analysis of Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2014 Completion data file, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Carnevale A.P., Rose, S.J. & Hanson, A.R. (2012), “Certificates: Gateway to Gainful Employment and College Degrees,” Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce Certificates awarded at community colleges: 2014 According to IPEDS, short-term certificates include awards for programs that are less than one academic year; medium-term certificates are programs that are at least one year, but less than two academic years; and long-term certificates are awards for at least two years, but less than four academic years…..

Source: DataPoints: American Association of Community Colleges.

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Florida ranks high in care of student veterans

By | News
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PANAMA CITY — Ebonii Caperhart joined the military to pay for college.

“They offered to pay for school in return for me enlisting,” said Caperhart, who joined as a hospital corpsman. Three years and an honorable discharge later, the Panama City woman is now a student at Gulf Coast State College, looking to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“I think they do a good job here” serving veterans at GCSC “financial wise,” she said. “It’s like you’ve done your time; now we’ll serve you. It’s a good direction.”

As veterans continue to return from various overseas conflicts, how to best serve their needs in higher education is a question colleges and universities continue to grapple with. In a recent national Gallup Poll study of recent veteran graduates, about half of veterans said their school understood their unique needs, while the other half said there was room for improvement.

Florida has been aggressive in finding ways to make education accessible to veterans, with Victory Media, a veteran run media company, ranking it the fifth highest in the nation, with 69 schools making its military-friendly list. Additionally, the state government has taken steps to expand the post-9/11 GI Bill for veterans.

“The big hurdle for the state of Florida was granting in-state tuition rates to returning veterans,” said Steven Murray, spokesman for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. “We heard this feedback and worked with the Legislature and collegiate veterans’ groups to change this deficiency.”

Last year, that initiative was expanded so spouses and children of veterans also could benefit from in-state tuition.

Improving the grad rate

Financing education, however, is only step one. Only about 52 percent of veterans using the GI Bill complete their degrees and graduate, according to a study by the Student Veterans of America in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Student Clearinghouse.

While the graduation rate is consistent with that of traditional students — about 54 percent — it does present a challenge for schools trying to keep veterans enrolled.

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