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Greater Gainesville Chamber: Nurturing Talent

Greater Gainesville Chamber: Nurturing Talent

Greater Gainesville Chamber: Nurturing Talent From Kindergarten to Career

Great careers are built from a strong education foundation, from elementary school all the way through technical training and two- and four-year college programs that prepare students to join a much-needed workforce for Florida’s booming economy. As the third most populous state in the country, Florida creates one of every 11 jobs offered in the United States and welcomes 900 net new residents each day. And Florida’s economy is still projected to grow at a greater rate than the national economy over the next few years, despite the effects of the pandemic. Maintaining Florida’s momentum requires a resilient economy, and the best way to build it is to cultivate a well-educated population. Compared to Floridians with high school diplomas, residents with college degrees earn more than twice as much annually, and residents with technical certificates earn about a third more each year. That’s good for Florida families and our economy as a whole.

Students in Alachua County get a great head start on the future through the high-quality academic and career-focused magnet programs offered at Alachua County Public Schools. Academically talented/gifted elementary and middle school students can take advantage of magnet programs offered at Archer, Stephen Foster and Williams elementary schools and Oak View, Lincoln and Howard Bishop middle schools. Students with an interest in the arts can enroll in the Rawlings Elementary Center for the Fine Arts. All programs offer a rigorous, well-rounded and engaging curriculum that fosters creativity, problem solving and critical thinking.

Challenging college preparatory magnet programs are available at both Eastside and Gainesville High Schools. The district’s longest-running academic magnet program is Eastside’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which was established in 1987 and currently serves more than 500 students throughout Alachua County. IB offers a demanding course of study focused on liberal arts and sciences. With its long tradition of success, the Eastside High IB program has served as a model for IB programs throughout the nation. The Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Program at Gainesville High School, also known as “Cambridge,” is another rigorous, internationally-recognized course of study for academically-talented students that is focused on science, math, languages, arts and the humanities. Fourteen classes have graduated from GHS’ Cambridge program, which opened in 2004. Both the IB and Cambridge programs have produced graduates who have flourished in prestigious colleges and universities throughout the U.S., including Ivy League schools. Their students have earned many state, national and international honors, as well as college credit.

The same is true for students attending the district’s career academy magnets, which are located on seven high school campuses. The academies offer a rigorous and relevant curriculum in a diverse range of fields. The curriculum is delivered by highly qualified teachers using state-of-the-art equipment in outstanding facilities. Academy students earn industry certifications, college credit and scholarships. They participate in student leadership organizations and competitions, run school-based enterprises and work in local businesses, all of which prepares them well for life after high school. In the fall of 2021, the district will be piloting a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) curriculum at Metcalfe Elementary School. The goal will be to expand it to a schoolwide magnet program open to any Alachua County student. Plans for a dual-language immersion magnet program in the district are also underway. As part of a comprehensive ‘reimagining’ of local schools that will include extensive community input, other magnet programs may be established. Any student may apply to a magnet program, regardless of where they live in Alachua County. To promote access, transportation is provided through satellite bus stops. More information about each magnet program can be found on their host school’s website or on the district’s magnet page at

Recruiting and hiring talent remains the top concern for human resources professionals, as is a perceived skills gap, reports the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM, January 2021). Local and statewide efforts are raising awareness and building consensus around the need to knock down barriers to needed training and education beyond high school for all Floridians. The State of Florida has set a goal through its SAIL to 60 Initiative (Strengthening Alignment between Industry and Learning) to increase the percentage of Florida adults holding high-value postsecondary degrees, certificates or training experiences to 60% by 2030. The current rate is 55% in Alachua County. The Florida College Access Network (FCAN) and its local partners across the state—including the Greater Gainesville Chamber—recently launched a statewide campaign, Talent Strong Florida, to promote education after high school for recent graduates and adult learners as the key to Florida’s and individual Floridians’ economic recovery.

“Past recessions have taught us that Floridians who only have a high school education are hit harder by job losses than those with more education, and most new jobs require degrees and credentials beyond high school,” said Charleita M. Richardson, FCAN executive director. “Creating a path for all Floridians to access higher education and training can accelerate Florida’s recovery and put more Florida families on the path to economic mobility.”

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And because childhood poverty directly correlates to poor educational outcomes, the Florida Chamber Prosperity Initiative is working to reduce childhood poverty zip code by zip code in Florida. In our region, the Greater Gainesville Chamber is joining forces across education, business, local government and the nonprofit sectors to lower the barriers specific to our community to ensure all students and adults can access the education they need for a rewarding career. Career Discoveries Day is a day-long program where middle- and high-school students meet and engage with local employers from a wide variety of industry sectors as well as our post-secondary educational institutions to learn more about the many options open to them after high school graduation. Additionally, a Career Technical Education Feasibility Study will focus on Greater Gainesville’s demographics to identify the specific additional employment and educational needs of our region, relative to youth arts and adult training programs. From this data, more Career Technical Education programming can be targeted to increase the pathways to opportunity for all of our citizens.

“At the Greater Gainesville Chamber, we know the talent pipeline begins with our youngest students,” says Eric Godet, Greater Gainesville Chamber president/CEO. “Our efforts to strengthen this pipeline include bringing on a national center for career and technical education, which will upskill our residents without a high school diploma, as well as continuing work with our school district to ensure that every student is reading at grade level. Providing opportunities from kindergarten to career and from the G.E.D to the Ph.D. creates a better future for us all.”

For more information about Career Technical Education, contact Ian Fletcher at [email protected].

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