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FutureMakers Coalition uses 'Navigators' to help regional workforce: Moore About Business

Read the transcript of the interview (edited for clarity):

Karen Moore: Please share with us how the FutureMakers Coalition came about and its mission.

Tessa LeSage: So, FutureMakers Coalition isn't an organization, it's a network of about 140 cross-sector partners throughout the five-county-area of Southwest Florida. That's Hendry, Glades, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties. And we all work together around a shared goal of transforming Southwest Florida's workforce.

We know that by the year 2025, two out of every three jobs in Florida will require a credential beyond high school. And so, we are working hard to increase the number of skilled workers here in our region. We work all the way from cradle-to-career. So, learning before kindergarten all the way through the adults that are out there right now that we call the untapped workforce that don't currently have the credentials that are needed to fill in demand jobs.

Karen Moore: How long has the FutureMakers Coalition been in existence?

Tessa LeSage: FutureMakers is about nine years old at this point, so it's the longest standing regional collaboration in our in Southwest Florida.

Karen Moore: And what is your role in the organization, Tessa?

Tessa LeSage: I've been lucky to be here this entire time from the beginning. I've worked with national partners and other collaborations across the country and throughout the state of Florida to help really set up and design this coalition. My job is just to support our partners in reaching our shared goal.

Karen Moore: What part does FutureMakers play in the $22.9 million workforce development grant that FGCU received last fall?

Tessa LeSage: This grant is really a testament to how well our region works together around this goal of increasing the number of skilled workers.

Florida Gulf Coast University, together with FutureMakers Coalition, partnered to develop what is called the Southwest Florida Equitable Jobs Pipeline. And we received $22.9 million from the Department of Commerce via the Economic Development Administration to upskill the regional workforce and stimulate economic development in order to create a stronger economy here in our region. FutureMakers’ role is really the coordination with the various partners throughout the region because it is a workforce development goal. It's going to require all of our education partners in the five-county area, from, you know, adult education, technical colleges, state Colleges, private institutions, FGCU, everybody, as well as employers in four sectors which are healthcare, logistics, manufacturing, and upskilling in our K to 12 education system folks, who currently have an AA or bachelor's degree and need to upskill in order to become teachers and have their own classroom .

We're looking at placing about 1,700 people into these sectors and reaching more than 2,500. So, we're really excited about this opportunity.

Karen Moore: What are some recent examples of successful community workforce development connections in which FutureMakers played a vital role?

Tessa LeSage: Probably one of the key parts of this effort, the Southwest Florida Equitable Job pipeline, are our navigators. FutureMakers Coalition has a program that allows individuals to receive a navigator who walks alongside them for free to help remove barriers to attaining whatever their educational goals are, and get into a well-paying job in our region.

These navigators are here to help really navigate the education and workforce system and then in turn they're feeding back information to us about challenges that individuals are experiencing so we can work with our partners to try to make sure that what we learn becomes opportunities to change policies and practices to ensure we have a super-efficient and effective education and workforce pipeline.

We have been serving hundreds of people. We started last January with our Navigator program. We are approaching 600 reconnectors that we're working with right now. Those are adults who need to reconnect with education in order to get into jobs into these four sectors.

So, we are just really excited about the way these navigators are pulling all of our partner relationships together and using it to help individuals get training and get into really good jobs.

Karen Moore: How can someone become a navigator?

Tessa LeSage: Anyone can refer individuals to receive a navigator. That's sort of like the FutureMaker spirit. We all share this goal, we're all future makers.

So, if you're working in a nonprofit or if you're an employer who has someone that needs to upskill, and it doesn't even matter what sector they're going into or what their interest is, you can go on the future makerscoalition.com website and click on the Navigator tab and sign someone up. And we will get in touch with them right away.

We do actually have a couple of positions open to become like for your job to be a navigator, and you can find those on the career link on the FutureMakers website. But beyond that, anybody who wants to sign up to help to get these services and to use the resources that are available to increase their education level, get training that they need in order to get into a job. We are ready to serve.

Karen Moore: Is there anything else you would like to share with our listeners today, Tessa?

Tessa LeSage: Only that this is just a huge opportunity and the more that we can work together and figure out ways to support this effort: If you're an employer and you need workforce, if you are working in education and you want to find ways to support people getting into training, if you're working with parents of school-aged children that could use some assistance, please connect with us. We are all future makers. We are all responsible for our education and workforce system and a strong economic development system here in Southwest Florida.

Karen Moore is a contributing partner for WGCU and the publisher of SWFL Business Today.

Publisher of SWFL Business Today