In this co-authored viewpoint article, GPCC CEO Todd Sanders and Arizona Chamber CEO Glenn Hamer discuss why it’s so important to be actively engaged in workforce development initiatives.

During a recent career development conference, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sounded the alarm about the critical shortage of skilled technical workers. It’s a problem Arizona knows all too well.

Jobs that require an education beyond high school, but less than a bachelor’s degree, account for 53 percent of Arizona’s labor market, nearly 5 percent higher than the national average. But just 47 percent of the state’s workers have the training for these middle-skills jobs. The reality is that as technology continues to evolve, a high school degree often is no longer enough.

To give Arizona’s youth a chance to join the middle class and protect our economic future, we must close the growing skills gap.

According to a McKinsey & Co. study, a partnership between industry and education is the best way to prepare workplace-ready graduates.

In Arizona, we have a powerful example of this model in action.Universal Technical Institute has graduated nearly 200,000 students in its 50-year history, and last year 88 percent of graduates found work in the burgeoning transportation industry within a year of completing their education. The secret to UTI’s success — and the success of its graduates — is collaboration with industry and employers. UTI partners with more than 30 manufacturers and brands, including Ford, BMW, Freightliner and GM, to help design curricula and give students industry-specific training and certifications. They outfit training labs with the latest vehicles, technologies and tools; support students in paying for school; and hire UTI graduates.

That’s important, given that by 2024, we will need 1.2 million technicians to keep modern vehicles running.

UTI’s model for workplace-driven training prepares students for stable, well-paying jobs. It’s a model we need to emulate.

Our chambers are actively engaged in workforce development initiatives.

For example, Aspire Pathways brings together industry and education to help students build successful careers in the health care industry. As part of the program, local health care organizations partner with high-school career training programs to give students information about career paths and opportunities.

The Arizona and U.S. chambers’ Talent Pipeline Management Learning network play a similar role in helping prepare our future workforce.

But we need to do more. We must identify programs to meet the need for skilled labor. Educators must partner with industry to align classroom instruction with job requirements. And we must hone students’ technical skills.

It is time for Arizona to connect education with industry, so we can build a strong workforce and a bright future.

To access this viewpoint article on the Phoenix Business Journal’s website, click here.

Posted by Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce supports business growth and drives economic development in the region by helping members stay connected and prosperous, growing the economy through Phoenix Forward, our collaborative economic development partnership, and advocating for pro-business policies.