In Southwest Florida, the majority of jobs require post-high school certificates or degrees. Yet only 41% of the region’s workers have the credentials needed to qualify for in-demand open positions. Recognizing the gap and its critical effects on the local economy and community well-being, a group of business, nonprofit and local government leaders have come together to provide resources for people to get the credentials they need.
With a goal of increasing the amount of local residents who qualify for open jobs to 55% by 2025, the FutureMakers Coalition provides reskilling, training and career development resources to those who need it. To fund its programs, FutureMakers taps into more than $3 billion in unclaimed federal college and post-secondary assistance as well as grants from private and corporate sponsors. Bank of America provided $375,000 in funding over three years to build capacity, part of the bank's $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity.
In just over five years, the project is graduating sought-after, skilled workers suited for high-demand positions in fields such as healthcare, construction, electrician, plumbing and more. In an effort to support the more than 40,000 in the region who started a degree at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) or Florida SouthWestern State College (FSW) but didn’t finish, FutureMakers started a debt-forgiveness fund at FGCU to remove debt as a barrier to finishing a degree. The complementary program at FSW is designed to remove opportunity costs (like transportation, child care or tuition assistance) that might create a barrier to returning and finishing a degree. This model program has grown exponentially, and Bank of America is adding additional resources to help build capacity and continue moving the work forward.