A new initiative to dramatically increase the percentage of Arizonans who have completed post-secondary training or education would increase Arizona tax revenues by $3.5 billion each year and the skilled workforce it ensures would attract more businesses to the state if it meets its goals.
A community-based coalition of 60 organizations from throughout Arizona seeks to increase the number of Arizonans with post-secondary degrees or credentials from the current 42 percent to 60 percent by 2030. No specific policy proposals or funding sources were mentioned during the press conference last Friday at which the Achieve60AZ initiative was unveiled.
The focus instead was identifying the economic need to boost the attainment rate and outlining the necessity for coordinated strategies to meet the goal.
Achieve60AZ has the support of Gov. Doug Ducey and more than 60 community, education, business and non-profit groups from around the state who have been meeting since last winter to develop plans to meet this goal.
About 30 other states have set a similar goal.
“Not only will this raise the standard of living for many individuals, it will attract more businesses to our great state and keep companies here thriving,” Ducey said.
To meet the goal, Arizona’s K-12 public schools, community colleges, career and technical schools, universities, community and business groups and nonprofits will need to work together to increase high school graduation rates, provide high school students more information about the post-secondary training and education options in Arizona, find ways to make those options more affordable, and create policies that make it easier for adults complete their training, education or certificates.
“There are many organizations in our state working to increase job certifications earned and college-going rates,” said Eileen Klein, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, who played a key role in convening the alliance. “Achieve60AZ brings many of these entities together into this collective effort to ensure that Arizona’s economy continues to grow and individuals are able to fill future jobs that require more education or training.”
Klein says the state’s future depends on the success of the initiative.
Studies show that a more educated workforce, with training and credentials beyond high school, is a critical indicator of a state’s economic health and long-term viability – leading to higher wages, greater capital and healthy, vibrant communities, Klein said.
State levels data on future workforce needs is adding urgency to the undertaking.
Two of every three Arizona jobs will require additional training beyond high school by 2020, according to a June 2013 report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
About 470,000 Baby Boomers in Arizona will retire in the next 10 years, according to the Arizona Board of Regents and the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity.
In addition to public education leaders from K-12, community colleges and the state’s universities, technical school leaders also support the effort.
“Our state faces a critical shortage of skilled technical workers, and UTI is helping meet this demand while preparing students for success in high-skill automotive and diesel careers,” said Michael Romano, president of Universal Technical Institute’s Avondale campus.
He urged Arizonans to seek the education and training they need – whichever path they choose.
Nearly half of the Maricopa Community Colleges’ graduates enter high-demand careers that require technical abilities and interpersonal proficiency, said Chancellor Maria Harper-Marinick, an Achieve60AZ alliance member.
“Cutting-edge skills training not only boosts our students’ individual earning potential, but also elevates the competitive strength and economic vitality of the region by adding $6.3 billion in added revenue,” Harper-Marinick said.
As the economy becomes more globalized, Arizona must remain competitive with a skilled, educated workforce, said Steve Macias, president and CEO of Pivot Manufacturing and an Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board member.
“Besides the gains that businesses will realize, an educated workforce provides a boost to our economy and will help replace thousands of Baby Boomers who are retiring,” Macias said.