Blog | Event | January 22, 2021

Florida Business Leaders Join a Panel Discussion to Tout Urgency of Investments in Postsecondary Pathways

ReadyNation members and other experts joined a virtual panel discussion to release a new research brief on the importance of postsecondary education and training

Yesterday, business leaders, lawmakers, students, and education experts joined a virtual panel discussion to release a new ReadyNation brief on the importance of postsecondary education and training to Florida’s workforce. The brief, entitled “Building Postsecondary Pathways Today for the Economy of Tomorrow,“ shows that Florida’s future workforce strength depends on having more workers who possess postsecondary training and credentials. Businesses are feeling the strain of not having enough qualified workers to fill open positions. As the state works towards building a robust, stable economy long-term, there must be meaningful investments in accessible pathways towards postsecondary education in order to create the workforce Florida needs.

The panel featured the following speakers: Charleita Richardson, Executive Director, Florida College Access Network; Marili Cancio, Managing Partner, Cancio Johnson P.A. and former Vice Chair, Miami Dade College Board of Trustees; Recent Graduates, Polk State College Florentina Denis and Marquis McGary; State Senator Shevrin Jones; Peter Nowak, CEO, Nowak Enterprises, Inc.; and Amber Moorer, Associate Director of Research for Council for a Strong America. Council for a Strong America President & CEO Barry Ford provided opening remarks, and Nancy Fishman, Co-Global Director of ReadyNation, moderated the discussion.

After a welcome from Barry Ford and an introduction by Nancy Fishman, Amber Moorer highlighted the new brief’s findings. “Research shows that postsecondary education provides more stable and lucrative employment, and the economic impacts of COVID-19 will make postsecondary education even more important to attaining economic mobility,” she explained. “To ensure economic growth, Florida has set a goal of having 60 percent of working-age residents equipped with a high-quality postsecondary degree, certificate, or credential of value by 2030.” Just over half of Floridians fall into that category, and both employers and employees are suffering the consequences of this shortfall.

Charleita Richardson spoke next, explaining how in her career, she’s come to understand the importance of postsecondary education. “To build a talent-strong economy, all Floridians need access to a postsecondary education and the supports to complete it,” she said.

ReadyNation member Marili Cancio discussed how her experience both as a business leader and former Vice Chair of the Miami Dade College Board of Trustees has provided unique insight into Florida’s workforce demands. Marili stated that “equipping Florida’s residents with the skills and credentials of value they need to succeed in our workforce is absolutely essential to our future economic success as a state.”

Florentina Denis and Marquis McGary shared their personal experience with education, talking about overcoming the barriers they faced as non-traditional students. Denis said that, throughout her journey, her school gave her the help and resources she needed to get back on track. “Even when I faced challenges, my school gave me the help and resources I needed to get back on track,” she said. “That support is so important to help students succeed.”

In a pre-recorded video message, State Senator Shevrin Jones expressed his belief in education and policy opportunities in Florida that can improve access to postsecondary education. “The learning gap that our children will experience during this time is critical,” he said. “We have to do our part to make sure the children, especially those in underserved communities, know that we care about them and we are concerned about their education.”

Business leader and ReadyNation member Peter Nowak spoke next, providing his thoughts on Florida’s workforce and his company’s commitment to improving access to postsecondary education. “For our state to compete now and in the future, Florida must continue to make progress on expanding and creating opportunities for our state’s students to gain the skills they need to succeed in the workplace of tomorrow,” he said. He noted that the state must continue to make progress on expanding and creating opportunities for Florida’s students to gain the skills they need to succeed in the workplace of tomorrow.

Pathways to postsecondary education will help Floridians flourish today and tomorrow. The new ReadyNation brief released during this event found that workforce development is connected to postsecondary pathways and the panelists’ experiences supported that finding. Policymakers must realize that, for Florida to strengthen its economy in the short- and long-term, meaningful investments in improving access to postsecondary education are paramount.

See a video of the event below.

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