Arizona community colleges ready to upskill and reskill workers for economic recovery
A new report entitled, Arizona Reskilling & Recovery Network: A Workforce Development and Education/Training Framework, outlines how Arizona’s community colleges are the economic engines needed to provide fast, job-focused training for unemployed and underemployed workers in an economy reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic.
The report also calls for a coordinated operational plan with the ARIZONA@WORK system and provides policy recommendations to assist in supporting recovery.
The report proposes that Arizona’s community colleges are positioned to quickly work across government and industry sectors to develop programs that upskill and reskill workers for the new economy. Upskilling teaches new competencies to help workers stay in current roles, reskilling prepares workers for new roles.
“Arizona was selected as one of 20 states to join the national Reskilling and Recovery Network in large part because of the collaborative work that Arizona’s community colleges are already doing,” said Lee Lambert, Chancellor of Pima Community College and chair of the Workforce Committee for the Arizona Community College Coordinating Council (AC4). “Because of community colleges’ ability to pivot and develop innovative methods for training and upskilling displaced and underemployed workers, community colleges will play a critical role in the economic recovery of our nation.”
Another key reason the report calls upon community colleges to reskill post-pandemic workers is the value they place on partnerships with private industry for apprenticeships, internships, and tuition reimbursement. Arizona’s community colleges are rooted in their communities and can quickly adjust to local labor market needs. As proof, current construction and electrical apprenticeship programs at Arizona Western College, Central Arizona College, and Yavapai College give students viable skills while they earn income which helps reduce student debt.
“This is about Arizona’s community colleges working with private industry to supercharge local workforce development,” stated Mark Gaspers, senior manager for state and local government operations at Boeing. “Our relationship with community colleges shows that we can work together to address workforce needs and develop curricula that gives students the industry skills they need.”
Economic inequalities caused by the coronavirus pandemic are also addressed within the report. Many Arizonans remain unemployed or employed in low-wage jobs, especially among rural communities, discouraged and marginally attached workers, racial and ethnic minorities, and women. “Community colleges have this reputation for agility in responding to industry needs,” said Dr. Daniel P. Corr, president of Arizona Western College. “This marries that up with state-wide, scalable solutions that help eliminate poverty in both rural and urban settings.”
Research-backed evidence that the post-pandemic economy is expected to require more education at all levels provides the basis for the report. Arizona’s community colleges are focused on programs that meet target industries identified by the Arizona Commerce Authority – the state’s leading economic development organization. Each of these industries represents high concentrations of workers, high wage career paths, job growth, and industry expansion. Current programs that offer cutting-edge technologies for targeted industries include: Arizona Western College’s Unmanned Aerial Systems cross-discipline certificate, Maricopa Community Colleges’ Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning program, Pima Community College’s Automated Industrial Technology program, and Yavapai College’s 3D Construction and Affordable Housing program.
To support economic recovery, the report outlines a series of recommendations for policy makers. These pivotal reforms range from addressing expenditure limits to allow colleges to more efficiently and effectively create workforce programs on pace with Arizona business demands – to develop a state-wide ApprenticeshipAZ model that includes tax credits for participating employers. For more information on these reforms, and to view report details, visit www.arizonacommunitycolleges.org.The Arizona Reskilling & Recovery Network: A Workforce Development and Education/Training Framework report was published by the Arizona Community College Coordinating Council (AC4). A steering committee from the Arizona Network Team of the National Reskilling and Recovery Network contributed research for the report. This network has been facilitated by the National Governors Association and the American Association of Community Colleges since July 2020, and involves 20-plus states including Arizona. Arizona’s Network Team was composed of ten members: two representatives from the Governor’s Office, four community college presidents/chancellors, two industry representatives, and two workforce representatives.
The Arizona Community College Coordinating Council (AC4) is an association of the ten accredited community college district CEOs. As primary providers of job training, workforce preparation, and university transfer education in Arizona, the districts are responsible for serving a diverse population of students throughout the state. The Council was created to provide a forum for advocacy, communication, and coordination, and to provide a unified voice for independent community college districts. The Council and its executive director also act as a single point of contact to the public, media, education community, and public policy makers.
ARIZONA@WORK is the statewide workforce development network that helps employers of all sizes and types recruit, develop, and retain the best employees for their needs. For job seekers throughout the state, ARIZONA@WORK provides services and resources to pursue employment opportunities. ARIZONA@WORK is a public and private partnership with 12 regional areas and 47 local offices, all working together and all sharing one mission: providing innovative workforce solutions to employers and job seekers.
By PR Newswire