Anna Lebesch, second from left, accepted FCAN’s 2022 Workforce Education Innovator Award on behalf of Earn Up during May’s Talent Strong Florida Summit. She was joined by (from left) Braulio Colón, Dr. Tonjua Williams, and FCAN’s Executive Director Charleita M. Richardson.

Earlier this year, Earn Up — the local college access network (LCAN) serving seven Northeast Florida counties — was named FCAN’s 2022 Workforce Education Innovator for helping residents better understand career pathways and employment opportunities in their region. In addition to honoring their work during FCAN’s Talent Strong Florida Summit, Anna Lebesch and Julie Hindall of JAXUSA Partnership (Earn Up’s backbone organization) served as guest presenters for FCAN’s Sept. 1 webinar, Starting with the End in Mind: Helping Students Explore Careers and the Education Needed to Get There.”

You can watch the full webinar recording now and download the slide deck. Lebesch and Hindall also recently spoke with FCAN about the origins of their latest talent development efforts.

After launching a Career Pathways microsite in August 2020, Anna Lebesch, Julie Hindall, and the rest of the Earn Up team have spent the better part of the last two years continuing to make sure Northeast Florida residents know about the many career options available where they live.

Their efforts included a Regional Career Pathway campaign throughout 2021 and a redesign of Earn Up’s website that ensured consistent branding with JAXUSA while keeping the LCAN distinct from its backbone organization.

“Our JAXUSA audience is more site-selectors and businesses looking at our region,” said Lebesch, JAXUSA’s Senior Vice President of Strategy and Talent Development. “Our Earn Up website, after originally being geared more towards FAFSA and college admissions, became what we consider our talent development website.”

Lebesch said the region’s Elevate Northeast Florida strategic plan from 2018 had revealed that students who lived in the area weren’t necessarily aware of all the career options in their own backyard, nor were they familiar with the educational pathways required to achieve their goals. As a result, a special emphasis was placed on bolstering Northeast Florida’s talent pipeline.

“From the business development perspective, the number one thing they (businesses) want to know about is the availability of our talent pipeline,” added Hindall, JAXUSA’s Director of Workforce Development. “The importance of developing talent and the visibility of that work has increased in recent years.”

Initially, the Career Pathways page of Earn Up’s website focused on industries highlighted by the region’s Elevate Northeast Florida strategic plan: Advanced Manufacturing, Advanced Transportation and Logistics, Financial Services, Health & Biomedical, and IT & Innovation.

“Those are industries where we’re really actively doing a lot of recruitment and we’re seeing a lot of activity and opportunities in these spaces,” Hindall said. Users can access downloadable information related to each field, including average earnings, local employers who are hiring within that sector, and nearby institutions that offer the necessary credentials.

Since relaunching last fall, Earn Up has added a “Support Industries” section — which currently includes careers in construction, agribusiness, and education — to the Career Pathways page based on feedback from community stakeholders. Hindall said there are plans to soon add entrepreneurship, arts, and social services under “Support Industries.”

Within the last year, the website also revamped its Educator Resources — they are now presented by lesson type to make it easier for teachers to share career pathway information with students — and added several new language options. In addition to English and Spanish, visitors to the Earn Up website now can read it in Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Arabic.

“Our secondary educators were telling us they were getting a lot of students with those languages are their primary languages,” Hindall said.

Lebesch said many of the resources and information featured on Earn Up’s revamped website were used last year to create the Regional Career Pathway campaign, which brought together businesses, school districts, higher education institutions, and community-based organizations in the region. In 2021, JAXUSA’s Talent Team facilitated 130 career pathway events/interactions with 2,780 participants as part of the campaign.

In addition to the updated Career Pathways resources, Earn Up’s website also recently added a “Connect to Companies” section.

“That’s our new initiative for this year, and it’s all about highlighting work-based learning opportunities,” Lebesch said. The section includes internships by industry, apprenticeship resources, and a “Connect Now” page where employers can submit work-based learning opportunities.

Hindall noted that Earn Up’s YouTube channel is regularly updated with deep-dive videos into different industries and quarterly workforce briefings featuring a panel of experts talking about what they look for in new hires and trends within their industries. The briefings are hosted in conjunction with CareerSource Northeast Florida.

“Students learn in a variety of ways,” Hindall said.  “Sometimes, watching a video will resonate with them more than our other collateral. We’re always interested in finding ways to hook students and get them interested in our diverse industry base.”

Webinar Notes: “Starting with the End in Mind” (Sept. 1)

Lebesch and Hindall shared more details about how partners came together to create resources and build awareness about in-demand jobs in Northeast Florida during a Sept. 1 FCAN webinar. To learn more — or to view the recording and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources:

Key Takeaways from Aligning Business and Education to Create More Student Internship Opportunities (FCAN)

Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.

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