Building the foundation for economic growth

Chancellor_CTD Gala_9-4-13

The celebration of our Center for Training and Development’s 50th birthday is an appropriate time to acknowledge CTD’s accomplishments and focus on the ever-increasing challenge Pima Community College and Tucson will face regarding the area’s No. 1 priority: jobs.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending CTD’s 50th anniversary reception gala, which marked the establishment of an endowment fund to support current and future CTD students with scholarships and other funds, as well as providing professional development and program support.

 Since its founding as the Tucson Skills Center in 1963, CTD has touched the lives of nearly 50,000 people, providing high-quality training leading to immediate jobs or to job advancement in the health, culinary and food service and business professions. It boasts a 90 percent completion rate and an 85 percent job placement rate. CTD completers average an hourly increase in wages of $4 to $6.

One example of CTD’s impact is the Pathways to Healthcare program. The College and its great partner, Pima County OneStop, are working together to administer the initiative, which is funded by a five-year, $18.5 million federal grant targeting the area’s poor.  So far, nearly 400 individuals have completed training, most in CTD programs, in fields that range from home health aides and medical billers to paramedics and nursing assistants. For businesses, CTD provides a pipeline of talent. For those folks who complete the program, it is a steppingstone into meaningful work. It is life-changing.

Our collaboration with OneStop demonstrates the importance of partnerships between educators, businesses, government and community groups. CTD has numerous connections to hospitals and other healthcare providers, the culinary industry and community organizations. The need to work across sectors, leverage resources and be responsive to current and emerging challenges is more acute than ever. That is because the needs of our region are profound.

Data tell the story. As I have written before, Tucson has the dubious distinction of being the sixth-poorest city in the U.S. The Pima County unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, and the numbers of people employed or actively looking for work are declining, The Pima County average weekly wage of $795 a week is far lower than in Maricopa County ($905) or the U.S. average ($903). Fewer than three-quarters of Pima County’s high school students graduate. Arizona ranks 43rd in creating private-sector jobs.

 And jobs, as Gallup CEO Jim Clifton says, are becoming “the new currency” for leaders, whether at the national or local level. We all need to do better training, attracting and holding onto workers capable of filling the jobs of the 21st century.

Pima Community College stands ready to strengthen its relationships to meet the needs of area businesses. PCC’s goal should be to make Tucson a place where businesses want to expand or relocate to. Toward that end, we will work to become more data-informed, so that we can allocate scarce resources based on evidence, not hunches. I intend to make sure PCC:

  •  Tracks its graduates as they enter and move through the workforce
  • Engages business and industry through advisory committees and other instruments in order to get a head start on emerging trends
  • Gauges employer satisfaction with our graduates
  • Aligns curriculum and faculty/staff development with business and community needs
  • Maintains industry-recognized, third-party-validated and -certified state-of-the-art programs.

Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” I will see to it that  PCC does its part to be a leader and a catalyst for change as our community works together to build a solid foundation of economic growth.

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