Southwest Florida Named U.S. Talent Hub

Designation includes grant to increase educational attainment beyond high school

Southwest Florida has been designated a Talent Hub by Lumina Foundation in partnership with The Kresge Foundation and will receive a $125,000 grant to support local efforts to increase educational attainment.

Southwest Florida joins Cleveland, Northeast Indiana and Tampa Bay, along with 22 other Talent Hubs selected in 2017 and 2018. These communities meet rigorous standards for creating environments that cultivate, attract, and retain talent, particularly among today’s students, many of whom are adults, Black, Hispanic, or Native American, students from low-income households, or the first in their families to go to college.

“This designation and grant are the direct result of the FutureMakers Coalition building on five years of transforming systems in Southwest Florida to increase the number of working age adults with the credentials needed to fill in-demand jobs in the region,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the backbone organization of the FutureMakers Coalition.
“Leveraging efforts that promote programs that encourage adults returning to finish a degree, the Coalition will accelerate efforts that support the region’s adult population with some college, but no credential.”

“Talent Hubs are not just trying to be some of the best places to live, work, and learn,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president and CEO. “These communities also are taking today’s students and transforming them into tomorrow’s talent.”

For Southwest Florida, this includes a stop-out initiative targeting students previously enrolled at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) and Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) and personalized advising for current completion options through degree programs designed to provide flexibility and interdisciplinary study.

According to Owen, the designation connects Coalition partners with a national learning community striving to increase attainment among individuals who face the greatest challenges to attainment. Given more than half of Southwest Florida’s working-age adults do not hold a credential beyond high school, this is a tremendous boon to businesses, economic development, communities, and the citizens in our region.


With the one-time award, the Coalition will work with FGCU and FSW to propel the region’s attainment numbers over the next 15 months. A portion of the award, $15,000, will go to the FutureMakers Fund at the Foundation to support overhead of the backbone organization. The remaining dollars will go to FGCU to support a position and marketing to recruit former FGCU students— adult learners who have stopped-out— back to FGCU or FSW to complete a degree in an effort to significantly increase attainment in the near-term.


FGCU is excited to work with the FutureMakers Coalition and Lumina to take advantage of this grant and enhance existing programs that are already bearing fruit,” said FGCU President Mike Martin.