How Pima Community College is preparing students for the workforce of the future
Tucson, AZ | Submitted by Libby Howell
Businesses in Arizona face a mismatch between the skills high school graduates have and the skills businesses need. Forty-seven percent of workers are middle skilled; they have some postsecondary education but have not attained a bachelor’s degree. However, 53 percent of Arizona jobs will require middle skills in the coming years, according to the National Skills Coalition.
Through the Center for Excellence (CfE) in Applied Technology and other CfEs, Pima Community College is fulfilling its mission to serve the community while addressing the mismatch between worker skills and employer needs.
Pima’s plan to implement CfEs began by strategically engaging leaders in business and industry, government, education and Tucson’s diverse neighborhoods. Information gleaned from that outreach effort informed Pima’s comprehensive Education and Facilities Master Plans. These complementary plans are driving a process that has included six Summits to gain community insights in areas critical to the economic development of the region: Applied Technology, Information Technology, Allied Health, Public Safety and Security, Hospitality Leadership, and the Arts.
Pima’s CfE in Applied Technology focuses on areas being transformed by rapid technological changes, such as Advanced Manufacturing, Transportation Technology, and Infrastructure. The CfE in Applied Technology, located on the northwest corner of Speedway and Stone Avenue on Pima’s Downtown Campus, will feature cutting-edge facilities and equipment. Instructors with extensive real-world experience will teach a curriculum that has been developed in hand-in-hand coordination with business and industry. Additionally, the CfE is a cornerstone of a public-private partnership to reinvigorate the surrounding neighborhood.
To provide the proper footprint for the CfE, Pima has purchased adjacent parcels of land, and is preparing for a groundbreaking in early 2020, with the first facility going online in late 2020.
As Chancellor Lee D. Lambert puts it, “Our Center for Excellence in Applied Technology will address the region’s need for skilled workers who will form the foundation of a stable, prosperous community. By providing a work-ready talent pool for employers, the CfE will enhance metro Tucson’s attractiveness to companies seeking to establish or expand operations at a fast-growing crossroads of national and international commerce.”
The College is meeting the needs of the community in other ways:
- Since 2014, Pima has partnered with the U.S. Air Force to train its paramedics. This one-of-a-kind collaboration boasts some 200 graduates and a 98 percent pass rate on national credentialing exams. The College succeeds because committed faculty deliver a rigorous, relevant curriculum, and because local first-responder and critical care communities provide crucial experiential learning.
- Through the Applied Technology Academy, Pima faculty and staff work hand-in-hand with major regional manufacturer Caterpillar on curriculum that enhances the technical skills of key employees. In this public-private partnership, Pima experts teach fabrication and welding to Caterpillar engineers, supplementing their skills with a deeper understanding of manufacturability and serviceability. The result is better products for Caterpillar’s customers.
- Pima leaders have collaborated with TuSimple, an autonomous vehicle manufacturer, to create a program helping commercial truck drivers remain relevant in an economy poised for disruption by technological advances.
All of these combined efforts are contributing to Arizona’s attainment rate, which currently stands at 45 percent. This despite the fact that most job’s in today’s economy require education beyond high school. It’s why the Arizona Education Progress Meter has a set goal to improve the attainment rate for the state to 60 percent by 2030.