FORT MYERS — The 11th annual Southwest Florida regional educational and workforce outcomes study has been released and provides key information about demographics, education, occupations, employments gaps and projected job growth.
The study is conducted annually by Workforce Now, a research initiative that studies the regional workforce and is comprised of researchers from Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida SouthWestern State College and FutureMakers Coalition. FutureMakers Coalition is a cross-sector coalition from Hendry, Glades, Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties with the shared goal of closing the higher education gap and, more importantly, retaining those high-skilled Southwest Floridians in jobs within the region.
FutureMakers Coalition aims to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce by increasing the proportion of skilled working age adults with college degrees, workforce certificates, industry certifications and other high-quality credentials to 55 percent. This report is one of a series created by FutureMakers Coalition with a view towards identifying opportunities and fostering outcomes to achieve the goal of 55 percent skilled working age adults in support of a diversified and resilient economy, and an improved quality of life for Southwest Florida.
The study is divided into three major sections including demographics, educational outcomes and workforce overview. The report also indicates the top growth occupations by major occupational group, level of education, and their median hourly wages.
Findings indicate that of the 446,228 workers reported in 2022, retail trade was the largest industry, with 17 percent of all workers in the region. Accommodation and food services was the next largest industry (14.1 percent), followed by construction (13.8 percent) and health care and social assistance (13.8 percent). Retail trade and accommodation and food services were also among the lowest paying jobs in the region, with average annual wages of $41,500 and $30,946 respectively. The average annual wage for all industries in Southwest Florida was $56,735 in 2022, up 6.5 percent from 2021. Construction was by far the fastest growing industry in 2022, with employment growing by over 10,000 since 2018. Professional and Technical Services had the next highest growth (5,977 employment increase), followed by Health Care and Social Assistance (4,823 employment increase), Administrative and Waste Services (4,440 employment increase), and Manufacturing (2,627 employment increase). Construction is projected to see the highest average annual growth between 2022 and 2030, growing by 1,283 jobs over the next eight years. Health Care and Social Assistance had the next highest average annual growth (1,271 new jobs), followed by Accommodation and Food Services (824 new jobs), Government (699 new jobs) and Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (587 new jobs).
The information in the report lays the groundwork for additional research and further evaluation to be developed by FutureMakers Coalition and its network partners regarding geographic, racial, ethnic, and gender disparities. Rigorous definitions and more accurate means of understanding where opportunities for improvements within the region exist in education and in the workforce must be identified and developed and barriers must be removed to meet the 55 percent goal by 2025 for Southwest Florida. The full study can be downloaded at www.fgcu.edu/cob/reri/files/ewo/ewo2023.pdf