Bill Symonds, Global Pathways Institute Director and Professor of practice at Arizona State University

Arizona is expected to have 3 million jobs by 2018, with 60 percent of those positions requiring post-secondary education. Of those, only one-third will require a four-year degree. Career and technical education programs (CTE) create highly trained, workforce-ready people to fill the remaining two-thirds of those positions.

Bill Symonds, director of the Global Pathways Institute and professor of practice at Arizona State University, delivered that message as a part of his keynote address during the Valley Voices Presents Opportunity Arizona: Identifying a Qualified Workforce through Career & Technical Education breakfast event March 3.

“In Arizona we are dominated by what are called ‘middle-skills jobs.’ Those are jobs that require advanced education beyond high school but less than a four-year degree,” Symonds said.

The top concern for Arizona business owners, as identified by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s Phoenix Forward initiative, is having access to a qualified workforce. Symonds went on to lay out the very convincing case for how CTE programs help deliver that workforce, setting up individuals for a lifetime of prosperity and setting up our communities for economic success.

Amplifying Symonds’ message were representatives of educational institutions that offer CTE programs and businesses that hire students trained at those institutions. After the keynote, the group participated in a panel discussion moderated by Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane. He asked the panelists to share their thoughts on how the business community can engage and support critical CTE programs.

Diane McCarthy of Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC), which has been providing CTE since 2002, provided three clear ways for businesses to help.

“First, support internships for our students as they are going through the programs. Second, hire our students. Having them as interns, you will see how well they are trained,” she said. “And third, donate equipment. We have a huge need for up-to-date equipment. It is extremely valuable.”

Panelist Mike Romano, president of Universal Technical Institute’s Avondale campus, highlighted the need for the automotive and diesel technology training his institution provides.

“We estimate we need 37,000 entry-level technicians entering the marketplace to satisfy the needs of the automotive industry,” he said. “There is tremendous demand out there, and we need young adults in our high schools and adult career-changers to recognize this as an incredible opportunity.”

Panelist Mike Eilola of Honeywell emphasized awareness and involvement as keys for a company like his, which employs scores of specially trained people. He even showed his willingness to walk the walk by offering Honeywell resources to help train students from West-MEC.

“Diane, Honeywell owns a 757 on the runway at Sky Harbor Airport. We can connect to get West-MEC students some time on that airplane,” he said. “We have pilots and technicians and I think we can help each other there. And we have a ton of assets for equipment donations.”

After seeing the connection between her fellow panelists, Dede Schmallen of HonorHealth reiterated the power of partnerships and communication between industry leaders.

“We’ve seen firsthand the power of networking, just among this panel. We don’t know what the schools need and what the programs need and you don’t know what we have,” she said. “We just need to make those partnerships.”

– Written by Josh Coddington, marketing and communications manager, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. This article is part of the Chamber’s Business Buzz newsletter.

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