Earlier this week, regional business and education leaders stood shoulder to shoulder to announce their commitment to a bold goal - that 60% of adults in the Northeast Florida region will have high quality training certificates or college degrees by 2025. Currently, only 36% do, ranking our area 72nd among the 100-most populated metro areas in the country.
"This isn't just an education issue, it's an economic development issue," said Daniel Davis, president and CEO of Jax Chamber. He explained that companies looking to expand in northeast Florida need to know there is an educated and trained workforce available.
In addition to attracting and keeping top industries the issue affects individuals and their quality of life. "People who earn a degree make about a million dollars more over their lifetimes than those who only get a high school diploma," said John Delaney, president of University of North Florida."
That's a lesson that Dan - a current student at FSCJ seeking a degree in physical therapy - learned the hard way. After graduating from high school - a major accomplishment coming from a very poor family - Dan headed straight into the Marine Corps where he served six years. With a wife and children he decided to take one of the few jobs he could get with only a high school degree - working in fast food. While he rose up the ranks, the job demanded 60-70 hours a week. He and his wife finally decided to make the investment in furthering his education. "A bachelor's degree is the new high school diploma. You have to have a bachelor's now to even be eligible to apply for most of the jobs out there." Dan wishes he had known about this long ago, and hopes that this collaborative improves the information and support provided to students far earlier in their decision-making about college, work and life.
Earn Up will focus on three strategies:
Increasing the number of high school students placed in college certificate and degree programs
Removing roadblocks for adults seeking to complete their degrees
Making it easier for veterans to obtain certification or degrees for seeking new careers after they retire from the service.
Funding for the effort comes from the Lumina Foundation, The Community Foundation in Northeast Florida, Vistakon and CareerSource of Northeast Florida. JPEF is proud to be a partner along with several other stakeholder organizations and groups.