Bearish on training to attract industry

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is joined by community college and business and industry leaders for a conference call with media to discuss workforce development efforts in the state. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Gov. Doug Ducey)

In 2020, Arizona Western College was the first community college in the country to receive Transatlantic Business and Investment Council certification. That means that the college’s advanced manufacturing programming meets European Union standards. 

Arizona Western President Daniel Corr noted that during a press conference with Gov. Doug Ducey and college and business leaders last week to highlight efforts in the state to attract manufacturers to Arizona.

“Why is it important?” Corr said of the certification. “We want to attract European manufacturing companies to Yuma County to create jobs and industry in our county.”

Arizona has in recent years seen a huge growth in manufacturing jobs, and Ducey is aware of the role community colleges have played in that through their workforce development programs. Last month, the government pitched in his budget proposal $30 million to establish six workforce accelerators that would be housed at community colleges in collaboration with industry. The proposal is the latest of several efforts that partner business advocates and community colleges to better serve the needs of manufacturers in the state — and to bring in more companies. 

Focused on training

The growing manufacturing jobs in the state require highly skilled employees, noted Arizona Western President Daniel Corr, who also serves as chair of the Arizona Community College Coordinating Council.

“We are not training people for yesterday’s jobs. We are training Arizonans for tomorrow’s jobs,” he said on the conference call. “That means things like artificial intelligence, automation, cyber security. The list goes on.”

Those jobs are the types offered by recently relocated or expanding businesses in the state, such as Intel, Lucid Motors, TSMC, Raytheon, KORE Power and more. 

“It wasn’t that long ago that all we had going on here were call centers and construction jobs,” Ducey said. 

Manufacturing jobs in Arizona have increased at one of the fastest rates in the nation, with the second-fastest job growth rate from 2016 to 2020, said Sandra Wason, president and CEO of Arizona Commerce Authority. Nearly 177,000 Arizonans now work in the manufacturing industry. 

Expanding partnerships

The state’s community colleges have refocused over the past several years on developing and strengthing their partnerships with employers. In 2019, Arizona’s advanced manufacturers, public sector and higher education institutions teamed to create the Arizona Advanced Technology Network. The Maricopa County Community College District, Central Arizona College and Pima Community College partnered to develop a unified, industry-recognized curriculum to teach the skills needed for high-paying, high-tech advanced manufacturing jobs. 

One partnership highlighted at the press event was Drive48, an advanced manufacturing training center in Pinal County that started in March 2021. The facility serves the region and state by training residents for high-tech manufacturing jobs in fields such as automotive assembly, advanced manufacturing, heavy equipment and more. Housed at Central Arizona, Drive48 was created in partnership with local government and industry partners, including Lucid Motors.

That partnership has created almost 2,000 jobs in the county, Corr said. He also cited other partnerships between industry and especially the state’s rural community colleges. For example: Cochise College, which has a large military presence in its community, has programs focused on cyber security. Coconino Community College has robust nursing, EMT and other medical-related programs that serve the healthcare industry. Eastern Arizona College and Northland Pioneer College are known for their automotive programs. Yavapai College is “printing” homes using an industrial 3D printer. 

“It’s that business-community college government partnership that benefits all,” Corr said.

He added that many of the career and technical education programs, including advanced manufacturing, are short-term programs that offer stackable credentials. That allows learners to attain a credential and return to the workforce — or even earn-and-learn, as in an apprenticeship program — and later continue with their education and training to earn the next credential or degree that will help them advance in their careers.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.