National Foundation Names Tampa Bay as “Talent Hub,” Awards Grant to Increase College Degree and Credential Completion

Author: LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network

Posted on: January 22, 2020

Lumina Foundation has recognized Tampa Bay as one of the first “Talent Hubs” in Florida for its efforts to attract, retain and cultivate talent. The designation includes a $125,000 grant to the LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network, which is awarded in partnership with The Kresge Foundation, one of top 20 private foundations in the nation.

Being named a Talent Hub indicates that Tampa Bay has shown the capacity to work collaboratively toward a significant increase the number of residents with college degrees, certificates and other credentials beyond a high school diploma. Grant funds are earmarked for efforts to re-engage adult learners who started post-secondary education or training, but did not complete it.  

“LEAP and its regional partners have done a phenomenal job laying the groundwork that resulted in this national designation,” said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.  The City of Tampa is a LEAP founding partner.  “Our administration is committed to increasing our workforce development,” said Mayor Castor, “and the Talent Hub designation and grant will certainly support our efforts in helping our residents attain the education and skills they need, which will in turn increase social and economic mobility for our entire community.”

An estimated 330,000 adults living in Tampa Bay have earned some credits but never completed their college degrees and/or credentialing programs, according to a 2017 American Community Survey. The Talent Hub grant will support re-enrolling those who already have credits, as well as efforts to create new opportunities and remove barriers for the region’s African American, Hispanic and low-income populations, which have historically experienced gaps in educational success. 

LEAP Tampa Bay College Access Network, a cross-sector network of 17 partners working to increase college access and attainment in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, is the lead organization on Lumina Foundation’s Talent Hub grant. LEAP’s vision aligns with the state’s “Sail to 60” goal for all of Florida, and the national “GOAL 2025” movement, all of which seek to have 60 percent of working-age adults holding such credentials and degrees by 2025.  As of 2017, Tampa Bay's two-county post-secondary attainment rate is 51.3%, which includes a statewide estimate of certificate completion that has been applied to the region.  

“The demand for an educated, skilled workforce increases as the business community in Tampa Bay expands,” said Dr. Tonjua Williams, President of St. Petersburg College. “This new designation demonstrates that national leaders in educational attainment believe in Tampa Bay’s ability to share resources and expertise for the greater good of our vibrant community.”

Founding LEAP education partners Hillsborough Community College, St. Petersburg College, the University of South Florida and both Hillsborough and Pinellas school districts all had leaders playing a key role in completing the rigorous designation application, as did United Way Suncoast and the statewide entity Complete Florida. 

In January 2020, Lumina announced the designation of four communities throughout the country as Talent Hubs. Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida and its FutureMakers Coalition are the first two Talent Hubs in Florida. There are now 26 Talent Hubs nationwide, ranging from New York City, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles to Richmond, Virginia, and Racine, Wisconsin.

“Talent Hubs are not just trying to be some of the best places to live, work, and learn,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president and CEO. “These communities also are taking today’s students and transforming them into tomorrow’s talent.”

Talent Hubs are part of Lumina’s $13 million community mobilization strategy, which focuses on local and regional efforts to increase attainment in ways that can inform other communities.

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