The Southwest Florida economy is experiencing a rapid change in population and the subsequent need for health care services. Collier and Lee counties, one of the fastest growing areas in the state of Florida, have seen population growth of approximately 20 percent to approximately 28 percent, respectively, since the 2010 census. According to The Office of Economic and Demographic Research for the State of Florida, population growth is projected to increase by 253,000 community members in Collier and Lee counties by 2035. Looking closely at the health care needs of our community, we note that 30 percent of our community members are over the age of 65; The percentage of this demographic is also increasing.
This increase in demand for health care services adds to an already strained health care delivery system where housing insecurity and other complex social challenges compound the challenges of the workforce. One of the biggest forces of change in our growing community is the nursing shortage that threatens our ability to provide access to care for people in our communities. Where danger exists, opportunities are presented, and one of these incredible opportunities is partnering with the Future Makers Alliance at The Collaborative.
The Healthcare Systems Strategic Alignment Team of the Futuremakers Coalition began as a pilot in 2016 and includes regional health care employers, educators, local and state government agencies. Since that time, industries in almost every sector of the region have also experienced a high demand for skilled talent. We are focused on not only meeting existing staffing needs but closing workforce gaps by developing strategic, sustainable, career path programs to grow and advance the health care industry. The workforce ecosystem is a complex network of activities, processes, and resources that can either pose threats or opportunities for individuals to gain gainful employment of jobs in demand. Our goal is to minimize threats and maximize opportunities.
Coming together regionally helps us to share expertise, coordinate best practices and activate our collective potential to leverage the resources we already have. As a coalition partner, it synergizes our collective ability to attract local, state and national funding and expertise. Recently, Florida Gulf Coast University, in partnership with the Future Makers Coalition at Collaborative, was awarded a $22.9 million investment to develop industry specific education, training and career development programs.
In 2023, the SWFL Equitable Jobs Pipeline is launching and we look forward to roundtable discussions with regional leaders in health care, education and government agencies. We see this as a tremendous opportunity to collaborate in service of developing sustainable workforce solutions that contribute to job growth, local commerce and advancing the healthcare workforce in Southwest Florida. By gaining a better understanding of changing workforce needs and a picture of the health care workforce of the future, the outcome will ultimately lead to a more robust and dynamic economy. The health systems alignment team will explore goals related to workforce forecasting, development, planning, and consider solutions to meet current and projected needs in our communities. In addition, this team hosts several county-aligned health care expos and recruiting events throughout the year. We will continue to engage with school districts and technical colleges to share information about future careers in health care and how they can get there by breaking down barriers and perceived barriers to starting a career in health care.
The call to action now is to continue to engage employers, schools and other support agencies in collaboration. An influential quote from a leading advocate of positive social change, “Alone we can do so little; Together we can do a lot.” – Helen Keller
The Healthcare Systems Strategic Alignment Team is led by Jennifer Thayer, Lee Health, Lisa Wright, Lee County Schools, and Tessa Lesage, Collaboratory. I am its member since 2020. For more information about FutureMakers and the impactful work being done in our region, visit futuremakerscoalition.com/.
Cristina Volpicelli, MBA, MSN, RN, CNML, CAPM, is the Manager of Strategic Learning and Organizational Development at NCH Healthcare Systems.