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Lutgert College of Business in the News

This is the text and photo from a the Fort Myers News-Press of December 25, 2013.
The Workforce Now research team is a finalist for a News-Press People of the Year Award.

People of the Year: Workforce now
Group bridges the gap between business and education

Workforce Now
John Meyer (Edison State College), Aysegul Timur (Hodges University) and Gary Jackson (FGCU) of Workforce Now.

To thrive, businesses need good employees, and those employees need a good education.

For too long, Southwest Florida's business and education leaders didn't talk to each other. Businesses weren't specifying the skills, knowledge and abilities they expect from their employees, and schools and colleges weren't asking.

That communication gap is being bridged, thanks to Workforce Now. The regional initiative aims to address a disconnect between business and education, opening the lines of communication so someday Southwest Florida will overcome employment gaps that can stifle the economy.

"The growth and desirability of our economy depends on it," said Gary Jackson, an assistant professor and director of FGCU's Regional Economic Research Institute.

Workforce Now's lead research team - Jackson, John Meyer of Edison State College and Aysegul Timur of Hodges University - comprise one of three finalists for The News-Press Trailblazer of the Year award. A winner will be announced Jan. 16.

The trio of researchers have completed three reports to date:

  • Employers: gauged the current and future employment needs of Arthrex, Chico's FAS and Lee Memorial Health System.
  • Sectors: explored the areas of finance, construction/manufacturing and tourism/hospitality in Southwest Florida.
  • Interviews: initiated conversations with stakeholders from area universities, colleges, technical schools and K-12 school systems.

In talking with business leaders, Timur said commonalities emerged.

"They didn't know, especially in IT, that they all had the same needs," said Timur, a professor of economics and Hodges' program chair for business administration and public administration.

The next research study will examine information technology needs of businesses. Input collected will help colleges and technical centers shape information technology academic programs to match workplace expectations and requirements.

Another discovery during the research was that employers weren't satisfied with some graduates' soft skills, which include communication, teamwork, attitude and work ethic. Institutions offering professional certifications and associates degrees, Meyer said, could use that data to strengthen lessons or programs covering employment skills.

"All we've done so far is scratch the surface," said Meyer, dean of Edison State's school of business and technology. "We still have a lot of work to do."

Workforce Now is funded by public and private sources. Research is being shared with public and private colleges, as well as public and private organizations.

"Nobody can predict the future with certainty," Jackson said. "We can understand the process and why things are changing, but that's why we need to keep updating the study."

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