Experience will tell you that if you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up, most will immediately respond with a list as long as they are tall. The list most likely contains careers ranging from doctor to firefighter to astronaut to president. But inevitably, somewhere along the way, these aspirations and dreams turn in to “I don’t know” as parents find themselves debating this same question just a few years later with teenagers.
Arizona Pathways to Prosperity hopes to turn those “I don’t know” back into a list of professions that will not only help Arizona students discover careers they are passionate about that will offer good wages and support success in work and in life, but will help Arizona’s economy prosper.
Center for the Future of Arizona has launched a new initiative that brings together high schools, higher education institutions, and business and industry leaders to develop innovative programs that allow students to learn about careers, gain work-based experiences, earn college credit aligned with career interests while in high school and attain a postsecondary credential with labor market value in their communities. It will take a regional approach drawing on sector strategies to connect education and business in support of economic development.
The program, in partnership with the Arizona Governor’s Office, Arizona Community Foundation and JP Morgan Chase, is not another discussion around skills or job training, but rather a pathways approach to supporting workforce and economic development.
On October 22 in Phoenix and October 23 in Tucson, business and education leaders attended kick-off events in celebration of this new initiative. Both events informed attendees of the need for high-skilled employees and how the pathways project is going to help meet this need.
“The world of work is changing and Arizona must change along with it,” Dr. Sybil Francis, Executive Director of Center for the Future of Arizona told the groups. “Nationally, 68 percent of jobs will require post-secondary education or training. In Arizona, we currently stand at 37 percent. We need to close this gap. This innovative initiative will create regional systems of career pathways that link work and learning, and support Arizona’s workforce and economic development. By increasing collaboration between business and education and strengthening educational pathways to high wage high demand careers, we will not only meet a critical need of our workforce but provide meaningful, lucrative futures for Arizona students.”
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton gave a passionate welcome to the group and talked about the importance of partnering education and business in the fifth largest city in the country.
“This project will help bridge the gap between the classroom and the workforce, and that will have a positive impact on our regional economy,” said Mayor Greg Stanton. “CFA and Arizona Pathways to Prosperity will help Phoenix schools and businesses work together to encourage and train young people to pursue careers in high-demand, high-paying sectors like technology, energy, and health care.”
Bob Schwartz of the Harvard Graduate School of Education made a plea at both events for local employers to become fully invested in this program because of its benefit to both students and local industry.
He stated, “This program can only be successful if employers become full partners. Tell us the skills you need and this program will find them.”
To educators he expressed the urgency of “getting kids to work while we have them.” And pointed out that “more than five million young people, ages 16-25, have no job experience.”
In Phoenix, Steve Zylstra of the Arizona Technology Council stated, “Nothing is more important in the tech sector then a highly-skilled, highly-educated workforce.”
He joined a panel that included Ronnie Terrazas, a Mesa Community College student, Amy Loyd of Jobs for the Future, Bob Schwartz and was moderated by Maria Harper-Marinik of Maricopa Community Colleges.
In Tucson, the event welcomed Mara Aspinall of GenePeeks, a global bioscience health leader, who welcomed the crowd with the proverb, “for those to whom much is given, much is expected” and laid out the importance of the APTP project and the critical role of local business.
Tucson’s panel discussion welcomed Michael Long, a Pima Community College Student, Amy Loyd of Jobs for the Future, Lea Marquez Peterson of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Lorraine Morrales, President of Pima Community College’s Community Campus, Bob Schwartz, and Ron Shoopman of Southern Arizona Leadership Council and an Arizona Board of Regent. It was moderated by Lisa Lovallo of Cox Communications.
Arizona’s efforts are part of a national network that involves Harvard Graduate School of Education, Jobs for the Future, as well as 11 other states but we can’t do it alone. Partnerships among educators, local business and community leaders are the key to success with this project.
To learn more about Pathways to Prosperity, become involved or share a program that CFA should know about, visit www.arizonafuture.org/education-redesign/pathways-to-prosperity/.
For more information, please contact Jennifer Liewer at 602-920-6461 or JenniferLiewerPR@gmail.com.