Jennifer Mellor

Jennifer Mellor is GPCC’s VP of economic development.

The importance of education cannot be overstated. Education provides us with knowledge and paves the way for a good career. It’s a self-enlightening journey that is crucial to the overall development of an individual and society at large. It lays the foundation for a stronger economy and nation. However, the time has surely come to move past the idea that a four-year college is the only answer.

One of the most promising pathways is career and technical education (CTE), which provides students with technical training and instruction for a variety of well-paying careers. CTE plays a vital role in developing a well-educated workforce that supports the economy through its emphasis on college and career readiness. According to the Association for Career and Technical Education, CTE programs currently serve more than 14 million students in 37,000 public high schools, private secondary schools and community or technical colleges across the United States.

Studies show that CTE can have an enormous positive influence on academic achievement. CTE supports students by providing engaging, hands-on training and career paths to plan for their future. Students in CTE programs score higher on standardized exams, have a much lower dropout rate and often earn certifications which open the door to employment and opportunities for advancement. Approximately 97 percent of students enrolled in CTE programs graduate as compared to a statewide average of 75 percent. CTE connects learning to earning.

CTE also creates a robust talent pipeline for employers. CTE programs include traditional trades such as automotive and aircraft maintenance, building and construction, as well as health care professions, coding and IT-related skills. A strong education system creates the foundation for a well-trained workforce, which enables businesses to thrive and prosper.

Through Phoenix Forward >>, our collaborative and strategic approach to economic development designed to grow and retain existing businesses in Arizona, data shows that the No. 1 concern of companies looking to expand is having access to a qualified workforce to fill positions. Many of these companies are looking to CTE programs to fill their talent pipeline.

Healthy businesses contribute greatly to a growing economy. Specific skill sets obtained from career and technical education not only help to attract businesses looking to relocate to Arizona, but also help to ensure that these companies continue to operate and expand in the state.

Developing a highly skilled, qualified workforce through multiple pathways—including CTE programs—will be critical in increasing Arizona’s global competitiveness. So how can you get in on the conversation and learn more?

Join the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and the Maricopa Association of Governments on March 3 for “Opportunity Arizona: Identifying a Qualified Workforce Through CTE” as we gather the Valley’s leading voices and discuss opportunities for the business and education communities to collaborate to strengthen and grow our economy. I look forward to keynote speaker Bill Symonds, director of the Global Pathways Institute and professor of practice at Arizona State University, as well as the panel of experts from Honeywell, Universal Technical Institute, West-MEC and HonorHealth who will share their insight.

Investments in CTE programs will pay off for our community and state. Without a doubt, a qualified and skilled workforce translates to economic growth. And that benefits everyone.

-Written by Jennifer Mellor, vice president of economic development at the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

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