Achieve Pinal is focused on the Progress Meter to strengthen the local workforce
Casa Grande, AZ | Submitted by Judee Jackson
A project of the Pinal Alliance for Economic Growth, Achieve Pinal is working to improve the Pinal County workforce by increasing the level of educational attainment of residents and preparing workers for the careers of both today and tomorrow.
With a focus on the state’s Achieve60AZ effort, Achieve Pinal has aligned their work to the Arizona Education Progress Meter and homed in on four key areas:
- Strengthening the K-12 Pipeline – Increase college readiness and high-school graduation rates.
- Completing Credentials – Influence policies to make it easier for Pinal County citizens to finish their certificates or college degrees.
- Increasing Access – Raise awareness about options beyond high school and make them more affordable.
- Aligning Workforce Needs – Engage businesses, governments, and educators to identify and close the skills gap.
In the coming years, an anticipated 30,000 jobs will come to the area – everything from electric car manufacturers to extreme sports facilities. Unfortunately, in Pinal County, only 29 percent of adults have education or training beyond high school. In less than five years, nearly 70 percent of occupations will require education beyond high school. In order to be competitive, Achieve Pinal is engaging with students from middle to high school to build a strong workforce for the jobs of the future.
In early 2019, the committee will launch career fairs for area high school students. The career fairs will engage with employers throughout Pinal County to showcase the many career paths available to high school students. Students will learn from local employers about the jobs that are available in their businesses, the education/training required for their jobs, what the roles pay, the benefits their company offers, etc.
Each career fair will be uniquely planned to reflect the business community in each of the county’s 12 school districts, with representatives from a wide variety of businesses. Events will begin with a presentation describing the jobs of the future and how students can be best prepared for those jobs. There will be break-out sessions to enable students the opportunity to have more one on one time with the business representatives to ask questions and acquire more specific information.
To help students begin thinking about college and career at an even younger age, Achieve Pinal is working with district superintendents to begin vocation exploration with seventh-grade students. The group provided district leadership with a specially designed toolkit to aid in their efforts. Middle schools countywide are being encouraged to work with the local chambers of commerce and other groups to create career days, local business tours and more. By reaching students earlier, the team hopes to better prepare youth for future coursework and to keep them motivated to learn. As one example of what’s already happening, the Casa Grande Middle School is offering week-long camps in the summer to help students get a feel for what to expect of careers and the education or training required beyond a high school diploma.
And to ensure that families are on board, Achieve Pinal will set up a Parent Academy, where caregivers can learn about everything from the college application process to financing and the FAFSA.