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FutureMakers Coalition Hosts Annual Champions Meeting

By October 25, 2022No Comments4 min read

Goal to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce

The 2022 Annual FutureMakers Coalition Champions Meeting was held in person at Collaboratory and virtually on Thursday, September 15 with more than 100 participants.

The FutureMakers Coalition aims to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce by increasing the proportion of working age adults with college degrees, workforce certificates, industry certifications and other high-quality credentials to 55 percent by 2025. The Coalition has grown to over 140 cross-sector partner organizations and 250 community leaders representing business, education, government, nonprofits, philanthropy, residents, and students across Glades, Hendry, Collier, Lee, and Charlotte counties. Forty percent of the partner organizations have changed policies and practices because of their work with the coalition.

Chaired by Dr. Kamela Patton and Dr. Shedreka McIntosh, this year’s event included an overview and highlights of FutureMakers work and successes in the past year; a keynote address by David Gillespie, executive vice president Florida Chamber of Commerce and Kyle Baltuch, senior vice president Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation; building rural learning systems in Hendry County; resilience and diversification; presentations by Mike Boose of Arthrex and Eric Leef of Hertz; updates on new Stop Out Program and Career Pathways by Jennifer Thayer of Lee Health; an announcement on the recent good Jobs Challenge $22.9 million EDA Grant by Dr. Michael Martin of FGCU; Workforce Now’s SWFL report and an update from Collaboratory CEO/President Sarah Owen.

“We have shown the impact of what we can do together but still have a lot of work to do to fill in demand jobs in Southwest Florida,” said Tessa LeSage, FutureMakers director, Collaboratory, which is serving as the backbone organization for the FutureMakers Coalition. “With the help of our FutureMakers Coalition Navigators, employers and education partners, and an intentional focus on the pre-K to 12 part of the talent pipeline , we will certainly continue to move the needle toward our goal of creating a robust and sustainable workforce for the region.”

LeSage added that to be sustainable, the Coalition must change policies and practices that may be preventing attainment to getting jobs, address entangled issues, improve kindergarten readiness, third grade reading proficiency and high school graduation rates and expand opportunities for career exposure and work-based learning in K-12.

Workforce Now, a research initiative that studies the regional workforce and education gave an update to their Outcomes Report including where the region was before Covid-19 vs. now and an overview of the impact, industry and structural changes, where we are in terms of recovery and opportunities ahead. Workforce Now is comprised of researchers from Florida Gulf Coast University, Hodges University and Florida SouthWestern State College, all FutureMakers Coalition partners. The available outcomes data indicate that Southwest Florida is making positive progress towards achieving the goal with an increase in the skilled workforce from 218,586 in 2013 (the baseline year), or 39.0 percent of the working age population, to 266,075 in 2020, representing 42.2 percent of the total working age population. The full study can be downloaded from the FutureMakers Coalition site at

The Champions Team plays a pivotal role in the Coalition’s success. Team members include regional leaders who have the ability to create a stronger workforce and vibrant economy by improving cradle-to-career opportunities for students, offering job training and certifications, employee educational incentives and more.

FutureMakers Coalition has been designated a Talent Hub by Lumina Foundation in partnership with The Kresge Foundation to support local efforts to increase educational attainment. Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the Coalition is committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners. FutureMakers Coalition was one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment and is a member of the National Talent Network. Collaboratory provides backbone/administrative support to FutureMakers Coalition.


FutureMakers Coalition encourages businesses to join and invest in sustaining this community-changing initiative by visiting or emailing Tessa LeSage at