NAPLES, Fla. (June 8, 2021) – Executives from Babcock Ranch discussed careers and employment possibilities with students in The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways program during a recent career panel sponsored by the innovative, solar-powered town.
The virtual panel featured Tyler Kitson, senior vice president of communities for Kitson & Partners, the developer of Babcock Ranch; David Mercer, land development project manager, and Natalee Burns, marketing manager.
After a group discussion, the speakers transitioned into three breakout rooms so the 31 student participants could enjoy a smaller group experience. Immokalee Foundation staff members helped facilitate the conversations.
Kitson shared his journey from a professional golfer and entrepreneur to discovering his passion for the development industry. He urged students to find a mentor, ask questions, and use their imagination and creativity. He also shared the importance of company culture and the rewards of creating communities for people. “It’s cheesy but true – it’s not a job if you love what you do,” he said.
Mercer, who graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a degree in civil engineering, explained how he manages the design, permitting, engineering and construction of Babcock Ranch’s residential land and ensures projects stay on schedule. He also emphasized how he uses the lessons he learned in his engineering and math classes every day.
“It’s important to stay organized and use critical thinking skills when issues arise,” he said.
Burns explained how she works to develop and execute effective and creative marketing strategies for the community. Burns told students about the importance of mastering communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and time management. “You have to learn how to separate the urgent from the important,” she said. “Try to learn everything you can – and remember to have fun.”
Students responded positively to Babcock Ranch and the employee roles and departments that work together to create a new town.
“I thought the expo was interesting and informative,” said Eloy A., an Immokalee High School junior. “It was nice to see the different layers of Babcock Ranch and how each of the department heads work to maintain the function of the company.”
“The presenters were extremely insightful – they did a wonderful job explaining the community that they have helped to build,” said Stephanie R., another Immokalee High School junior. “One of my favorite things they mentioned was how the entire community uses solar power. It was something that I found very unique.”
Along with career panels, Career Pathways students are offered career field trips throughout the year. These immersive experiences provide valuable insight and give the students an opportunity to ask specific questions about their areas of career interest.
Other area businesses that have participated in career panels and career field trips for The Immokalee Foundation students include Arthrex, Autumn Consulting, Bank of America, Entech, Florida Gulf Coast University, Gartner, Healthcare Network of SWFL, Naples Daily News, NeoGenomics, Physicians Regional Healthcare System, PulteGroup, and UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.
With an educational curriculum designed to help The Immokalee Foundation’s middle and high school students achieve their career goals, Career Pathways provides the support, tools and skills needed for well-paying, in-demand careers in high-growth Southwest Florida employment sectors, including Business Management & Entrepreneurship, Education & Human Services, Engineering & Construction Management, and Healthcare.
The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through support, mentoring and tutoring, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, becoming a mentor, its signature events, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit https://immokaleefoundation.org.