A report recently released by the FutureMakers Coalition outlined a series of attainment improvement goals for Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties in Southwest Florida (SWFL).
The timeline for achieving these goals is eight years, and they include lifting high school graduation rates, increasing business/education partnerships, boosting the number of local postsecondary graduates employed and earning living wages within the five-county area, and more.
According to the report, “data continues to be a cornerstone of the FutureMakers Coalition’s work and is used as a flashlight to point each of us toward the opportunities we seek for the region.”
But gathering that data was no small task.
The FutureMakers Coalition baseline report is the result of analysis that began in 2013 and also includes results of the coalition’s partnership with the Lumina Foundation, which concluded in December 2016. Among the report’s findings, the data revealed that only about 37% of working-age SWFL residents (age 25-64) had earned degrees, certificates, or other professional credentials.
FutureMakers began its work in 2013, the report’s baseline year for analysis. The need for a collective impact initiative like FutureMakers was spurred by a regional study initiated by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, which has served as FutureMakers’ backbone organization since 2014. The foundation’s study — 3D: Data, Dialogue, and Decisions — highlighted the region’s need to focus on education, economic development, and youth development.
FutureMakers launched a pilot project that succeeded in improving completion rates for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — this year’s 40.3% FAFSA completion rate in SWFL is up from 36% in 2013 — and matching high school students with adult role models. The project’s success, along with FutureMakers’ affiliation with Florida CAN, caught Lumina Foundation’s attention.
As a result, the community foundation was invited to submit an application to become part of the national Goal 2025 effort to increase the postsecondary attainment rate for Americans to 60% by 2025. FutureMakers Coalition was officially formed in March 2015 as part of SWFL’s inclusion in Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment, a program comprised of 75 community cohorts throughout the U.S. dedicated to increasing the proportion of residents with college degrees and other postsecondary credentials.
Today, the coalition is pursuing its goals through the development of a cradle-to-career pathway and boasts 230 self-proclaimed “FutureMakers.” The coalition’s current projects include a Certified Nursing Assistant System Alignment Pilot Project (which recognized that there were unused scholarship funds designated for students studying in nursing) and Foundation Skills Training (which seeks to develop prospective employees’ soft skills).