NEWS-PRESS: Superintendent/Workforce Development go hand in hand

By April 26, 2021 News
Lee County School Superintendent

FutureMakers Coalition isn’t an organization, it is a network working to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce. Right now, Southwest Florida doesn’t have the skilled workers needed to fill in-demand jobs. Too many workers are unemployed, or working multiple jobs trying to make ends meet. A superintendent is a key partner when it comes to transforming our workforce as they influence the full spectrum of K-12 students, and the parents that support them.

With this in mind, FutureMakers Coalition and our partners are thankful for Dr. Greg Adkins’, superintendent of the School District of Lee County. Dr. Adkins’ leadership and focus on expanding student access to quality early childhood education, career and technical education, and technical colleges is exemplary of what our region needs to focus on. This is in direct alignment with what FutureMakers has aligned with since 2014.What many don’t realize is that early childhood education is where workforce development begins. The training programs offered in our region are critical to fueling our economic resilience and growth.

Since 2015, there have been a lot of challenges, but Dr. Adkins has empowered his team to engage with FutureMakers Coalition and the work of collaboration consistently in meaningful ways. This commitment and display of community leadership was proactive rather than passive. The endorsement of a true community leader like Dr Adkins, has been critical to our collective work and progress. Dr. Adkins’ commitment has yielded measurable results that align with our shared goals, as well including:

  • Growth of Career and Technical Education (CTE) in past 5 years
  • 80+ Career & Tech Ed programs at 15 high schools
  • 10 Career & Tech Ed course options for 20 middle schools
  • Career exploration for all grade 5 students
  • 37,656 students enrolled (6-12)
  • 45% of 2020 graduates earned an industry certification
  • 75 high school students dual-enrolled in Embry-Riddle aeronautical courses at Bonita Springs High School.
  • Filling in-demand jobs at Lee Health (80% of CNA vacancies prior to COVID)
  • Growth of quality early childhood education
  • Opening of the James Stephens Pre-K Center which can serve 234 students
  • All new schools include at minimum 100 Pre-K student seats
  • Policy changes that better aligns and fosters collaboration between private early childhood education programs and elementary schools

Whenever we lose a key leader in our education, workforce, and economic development systems, there are significant risks because of potential setbacks to the community, and the collective efforts that have been set in place to move things forward.

So what’s next? We are looking for the next superintendent to have a similar emphasis on cradle-to career workforce development and community collaboration, including meaningful engagement with FutureMakers. This is vital to the success of Southwest Florida’s workforce and economy. Furthermore, the next superintendent should commit to an equity imperative that examines policies and practices with the goal eliminating outcome gaps among black and Latinx students. These qualities are critical to ensuring opportunity and meeting workforce needs.

On behalf of FutureMakers Coalition, we thank Dr. Adkins for his partnership, leadership, and dedication to education and workforce development. We wish him the best in his retirement.

FutureMakers Guidance Team:

Susan Block, Chief Executive Officer, Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida

Dr. Angela J. Corley, Project Director for the TRIO Talent Search Program at Florida Gulf Coast University

Colleen DePasquale, President & CEO, Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce

Brent Kettler, Director of Economic Research & Strategy, En-Site

Shawn J Khan, MD, MBA, Retired Surgeon & Entrepreneur

Tessa LeSage, FutureMakers Coalition Director, Southwest Florida Community Foundation

Dr. Amanda Sterk, Director of Accelerated Pathways, Florida SouthWestern State College

Michael Swindle, Superintendent of Schools Hendry County School District

Aysegul Timur, Ph.D., Vice President and Vice Provost Strategy and Program Innovation, Office of the President, FGCU