As we approach the 2024 Talent Strong Florida Summit, we hope you will take time to reflect on this year’s theme, “Access for All.” The FCAN team provided insight into the summit theme to inspire attendees on our vision of working together to achieve success for Florida students.

FCAN and our partners believe all Floridians need access to a postsecondary education to meet the needs of Florida’s growing economy.

“The transformative power of education means those who earn a degree earn more money over the course of a lifetime. More importantly, we know that higher education leads to people leading longer, happier, and healthier lives,” says FCAN co-founder and board member Paul Dosal.

According to the Lumina Foundation’s latest Stronger Nation report, 54.5% of working-age Floridians hold a college degree or high-value credential. Compared to high school students, individuals with bachelor’s degrees or career certificates receive higher wages than those with just a high school diploma. Higher wages benefit individuals and contribute to the broader community by fostering self-sufficiency and increased spending.

With this in mind, postsecondary education should be within everyone’s financial reach, regardless of household income or life circumstances.

“Educational equity is an important focus for FCAN because we believe that every student, regardless of their zip code or neighborhood, deserves a high-quality education,” says Stacy Baier, FCAN board member.

Despite improvements in overall high school graduation rates, racial disparities persist in Florida’s education system, with a significant achievement gap of 7.2% between Black and white students over the past six years, according to Florida’s Department of Education.

Talent development is Florida’s greatest opportunity to meet the demands of its growing economy and significant population changes. As Florida plans to increase its specialized workforce, educational equity is a crucial area of opportunity.

“Florida is not going to reach its goals as a state economically or socially without ensuring that everybody has an opportunity to an education beyond a high school diploma,” says Dave Sobush, FCAN’s director of research and policy.

In 2019, the Governor signed House Bill 7071 into law, creating the SAIL to 60 Initiative (Strengthening Alignment between Industry and Learning), which set a state goal to increase the percentage of Florida adults holding high-value postsecondary degrees, certificates, or training experiences to 60% by 2030.

“We’re all working together to ensure everyone can participate in our higher education system. We are breaking down barriers to access so that students, wherever they may be in their educational journey, can achieve their goals and make their dreams a reality,” says Deborah Martin, FCAN’s policy analyst.

This year’s summit theme aims to motivate attendees who will return to their communities and continue to create the change needed to achieve education equity for all. We encourage you to consider what “Access for All” means to you – before, during, and after the summit.

“We can co-design, collaborate, and figure out how we can move the needle in Florida so that all students from all communities have the opportunity to be successful through higher education,” says Braulio Colon, FCAN executive director and co-founder. “This summit is all about celebrating the work we’ve all been engaged in over the last year.”

By working together, we can remove barriers and improve access for all, build a resilient workforce, and enrich the quality of life for their regions.

Join us at the 2024 Talent Strong Florida Summit, taking place at the Hilton Orlando, on May 8-10.


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