Let’s Graduate Tampa Bay!
On Monday, March 26, higher education presidents and local business leaders came together for a press event to launch Graduate Tampa Bay (GTB), a critical higher-education campaign established through the ONE BAY: Lifelong Learning initiative to rally the entire Tampa Bay region to elevate our region’s 21st Century workforce. Building a more competitive workforce is the goal; the objective is simple: boost the region’s graduation rates by motivating the nearly 700,000 Tampa Bay residents with some college credit, but no degree. If 30,000 of these folks earn their degree – a 1% increase in Tampa Bay’s college attainment rate – an economic impact of $3.06 billion would result.
A common theme among the college presidents and business leaders in attendance was collaboration. The University of South Florida, Hillsborough Community College, Polk State College, St. Petersburg College, Pasco-Hernando Community College, Saint Leo University, Devry University, and the Tampa Bay business community are all working together to create pathways for students to graduate and to become competitive in the global community.
John Ramil, President & CEO of TECO Energy, said at the event, “the only real, sustainable competitive advantage is to be a learning organization.” “Investing in employee education pays huge dividends,” he added. Through a partnership with Hillsborough Community College, TECO currently has more than 370 student employees, over 90 of which have already completed their degrees. This is just one example of how partnerships between Tampa Bay’s businesses and education institutions can successfully build a stronger, more competitive workforce.
At the event, students also presented testimonials on how going back to school has changed their lives. The most moving of which was Rich, a student at Pasco-Hernando Community College who was formerly homeless and living out of his car. Today, Rich has been accepted to three major universities and is waiting to hear from a few more before making his decision on where he’ll attend to complete his Bachelors degree. He shared that the programs offered at his community college turned his life around by helping him attain his GED and begin his college career. His number one piece of advice: don’t quit no matter what.
A higher graduation rate means greater success and an improved quality of life for many of our residents. This, in turn, leads to a more prosperous region overall. By supporting this effort, we can make a positive impact on our entire region and contribute to the growth of Tampa Bay’s global competitiveness and business productivity. To learn how to get involved with Graduate Tampa Bay, visit www.graduatetampabay.com.
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