County Working To Guarantee Skilled Workforce Locally Available
by Tim Kanavel, Program Manager, Pinal County Economic Development
It’s no secret our entire nation is experiencing a severe lack of a skilled workforce at all levels in the private and public sector. The question placed upon us in Pinal County is how to handle this problem?
With Attesa, Lucid Motors, Nikola Motors and Resolution Copper starting up soon, the need to supply these employers with a qualified, skilled workforce is more important than ever.
While we can pull from Pima and Maricopa counties for many of these positions, the ideal solution is to keep our Pinal County residents employed with meaningful, high-paying jobs that will increase their standard of living.
Our Arizona@Work Pinal County staff has been working to help supply jobs for residents looking for employment. They are also working with our future employers to hone in on exactly what skills will be required when it comes to hiring. While the first phase of many of these jobs will be construction of the factories, facilities and infrastructure these companies need; the second phase is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, in helping these companies fully staff their operations with competent employees.
I’m not revealing any secrets by saying that today’s job sites are mostly computerized and automated. The people who program, design and upkeep these machines are the ones who will be in high demand.
The first step in this is to find out where we stand when it comes to the education and skill levels of our residents. That assessment is called a Workforce Skills Survey. This survey helps us at the County know just what skills we have available for our current workforce needs and what we need to focus on to improve, plan and implement for the future.
As I write this article, our latest Workforce Skills Survey has just been completed. Strategic Research Initiatives out of Queen Creek is compiling the data received into reports of our existing workforce skills. This data will assist the County and our communities in developing and implementing various workforce development programs. These programs will serve the needs, not only of the existing companies already here and possibly wanting to expand, but also the new companies we are all recruiting.
It took a lot of work and hours from our communities and companies to compile this data. I look forward to seeing what it has to offer.
While we wait for the data, it is encouraging to see our schools from elementary to college levels step up to the plate to help develop our new generation of workers. The acronym STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, Math) is a program that encourages our students, beginning in first grade, to explore opportunities in these fields. Our local schools have been placing highly among their statewide peers in STEAM competitions. Many of these students will be able to compete for jobs on a global scale if they continue on this path.
I would be remiss in not giving high praise to our Central Arizona College President Jackie Elliot. I am amazed at how she has taken the rudder of this school and is steering it in a direction of becoming a relevant entity in supplying the education needs for jobs Pinal County is bringing into the region. Dr. Elliott has met with many current employers and future employers to assess their workforce needs. The results have been astonishing. Under Dr. Elliott’s leadership, Central Arizona College is producing students ready to tackle the jobs of tomorrow.
Our future is bright in Pinal County! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to find my shades.