Tag Archives: economic development

Preparing for the Future of Work and Learning: the Role of Community Colleges

Our Aviation Technology program leads the way in training the next generation of technicians.

Who is more skilled – the brain surgeon or the automotive technician?

I posed this question at the beginning of my recent presentation to the Arizona House of Representatives’ Education Committee. My topic was “Preparing for the Future of Work and Learning: The Role of Community Colleges.” The query actually was meant to illuminate the point of my talk: Transformative change is taking place in every occupation, and will profoundly affect all workers, from those who wield a scalpel to those who turn a wrench.

Behind the disruption are the dizzying advances being made in mobile technology, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things. It would not be a stretch to think of these forces as “superpowers” in that, in the words of Pat Gelsinger, Chief Executive Officer of VMWare, a global firm specializing in digital infrastructure, they are on a par with “major nations, shaping the course of history.” Taken together, these forces amount to a Fourth Industrial Revolution that is “fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human,” according to Klaus Schwab, Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Needed: new skills

These forces will have a profound impact on work. The World Economic Forum estimates that 65 percent of today’s first graders will work in jobs that do not currently exist. And the timeframe for these seismic shifts are a little more than a decade away. In some cases, the shifts have already occurred. By 2030, 1 in 3 U.S. workers – including the surgeon and the mechanic — will need to learn new skills and find work in new occupations, according to a 2017 McKinsey Global Insights forecast.

What does this mean for Pima Community College, a large comprehensive higher education institution in Tucson, Arizona, about 65 miles from the Mexico border? Pima and its fellow Arizona community colleges, uniquely positioned to provide the human capital that helps determine the economic success of our region, must possess the nimbleness to train Arizonans to thrive in the brutally competitive global marketplace of the 21st century. There is no time to waste: The Brookings Institution calculates that 44 percent of job tasks in Tucson and Phoenix already are susceptible to automation.

Deepening relationships with industry

“Shift Happens 2,” a February 2019 report by INNOVATE + EDUCATE, a national workforce development nonprofit, stresses the importance of learners pursing a myriad of credentials. “Today, it is no longer a pathway from primary to secondary to postsecondary education leading to a job. That staid formula is no longer working . . . . Today, a learner’s most pressing need is a greater connect between education and employment outcomes.” Pima recognizes the need to shift teaching and learning to emphasize applied learning, lifelong learning and earn-to-learn models. The success of these endeavors depends on strong partnerships with business.

For example, through our Applied Technology Academy, we are training engineers from Caterpillar, the global heavy-equipment manufacturer, which recently opened a facility in Tucson. Caterpillar has identified a gap in its engineers’ skill set: they lack real-world, factory-floor fabrication experience.  Pima’s remedy is to offer six-week lab-lecture classes, Welding for Non-Welders and Machining for Non-Machinists, that lets the engineers get their hands dirty. So far, 48 CAT employees have completed the classes, and another cohort is scheduled. We also are developing a new class, Prototyping using Non-metal Materials.

Meeting the needs of industry is also the goal of our collaboration with TuSimple, an autonomous vehicle manufacturer with a production facility in Tucson.  With autonomous trucks delivering groceries in Phoenix, it’s clear that the future of truck transportation will mean drivers will need to learn a special set of new skills. We are working with TuSimple to build an Autonomous Vehicle Driver and Operations Specialist certificate that will build competencies in multiple areas – from logistics to information technology to automated industrial technology – that will be needed for the drivers of the future to interact with their autonomous vehicles.

Centers of Excellence

A Center of Excellence (CoE) is an academic hub, a collection of  programs strategically aligned to pursue excellence in a particular field of study. Pima is planning CoEs in six disciplines; the first to be brought online will be one focused on Applied Technology. We are investing more than $56 million, with additional funding to come from a capital campaign, to expand existing programs and start new ones across three areas: Transportation Technology (e.g., Automotive Technology, Diesel Technology, Autonomous and Connected Vehicles),  Manufacturing/Advanced Manufacturing (Machine Technology, Welding/Fabrication, Automated Industrial Technology, Process Control Optics, Quality and Design), and Infrastructure (Construction, Utility Technology, Mining and HVAC).  Our CoEs are founded on meeting the workforce needs of today while forecasting and responding to changes beyond the horizon.

Aviation Technology

Everyone benefits when education and private industry collaborate. In Arizona, we are fortunate to have leaders who recognize the role government can play in propelling the state’s economy. Gov. Doug Ducey has included in his 2019 budget proposal a $20 million one-time allocation to expand and improve our Aviation Technology Center (ATC). If approved by the State Legislature, the funding will potentially double, to 250, the students the ATC can serve. The extra capacity is necessary, as the program currently has a waitlist stretching more than a year.

Why Pima’s Aviation Tech Center? Our ATC has a national reputation built on rigor – 2,000 hours of training, more than 100 exams, nearly 300 hands-on projects. We are one of a handful of schools offering sought-after advanced structural repair and modification, and commercial jet transport and Avionics training, thanks to the 727 on site.

The state’s investment in Pima would solidify Arizona’s pre-eminent position in aerospace manufacturing while helping fill an education gap that could threaten our lofty standing. Arizona ranks No. 1 in overall aerospace manufacturing, according to the global consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), but is only 20th in the U.S. in the education subcomponent of the rankings. PwC notes that our northern neighbor Utah has engaged seven aerospace companies in the expansion of a program that provides high school seniors with training for an aerospace manufacturing certification. It is imperative Arizona does not fall behind in providing the “educated, technology-savvy and diversified workforce” needed to maintain competitiveness in this sector.

The bottom line, according to an analysis by Sun Corridor Inc., a regional economic development entity: The expansion would produce 75 new Aviation Tech graduates a year in jobs with an average salary of $52,000. The total economic impact from 2019-2023 from the $20 million investment:  $225.6 million – a better than 11-to-1 return. In aviation, as in other economic sectors, one need not be a brain surgeon to recognize the wisdom of preparing our workforce for the future.

Futures Conference 2018

Futures Conference logoThe College held its fifth annual Futures Conference last week. The conference is an important element in our strategic planning process, as it brings together students, Governing Board members, community members and PCC employees to discuss matters of College-wide importance, and to engage in small-group discussions that surface new ideas. Futures Conferences are a vehicle for constructive community engagement — we partner with the public, seeking advice and innovation.

This year’s conference focused on three areas:

  • Guided Pathways, clearly defined roadmaps to credentials that let students get the best return on their investment of time and resources.
  • Centers of Excellence, which enhance student success and economic development by providing students with rigorous, best-in-class training so they can succeed in leading-edge sectors of the economy.
  • Diversity and Inclusion, drivers of equity that need to be addressed if organizations are to succeed economically in a rapidly globalizing 21st

I opened with remarks that put the College’s work into prospective. New technological, economic and demographic realities are converging to create an age of accelerated change not seen since the 1440s, when Johannes Gutenberg introduced mechanical printing and ushered in the modern age. These changes, which range from the rise of Artificial Intelligence to persistent education and skills gaps, present higher education with numerous challenges. The foremost is realizing opportunities within our grasp today while preparing for opportunities of the future. This is a formidable task, given that 65 percent of today’s first-graders will be employed in jobs that currently do not exist. My path forward for the College, unsurprisingly, is to improve delivery of instruction and services so our students have the knowledge, skills and abilities to thrive regardless of what the future may bring.

Clearly, given this uncertain landscape, the College needs the insights of its partners, and Future Conferences are an excellent way to leverage their creative energy. Past conferences have resulted in real change. In 2017, attendees identified as priorities “Establish guided pathways for in-demand programs” and “Align College programs, processes, systems and resources to support economic opportunities within Pima County through relationships with local business and industry.”  Those insights were woven into the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, which was approved by the Governing Board in May 2017. I am confident this year’s Futures Conference will yield similar advances.

PCC joins the M-List

Below is an announcement released to the media regarding PCC qualifying for The Manufacturing Institute’s M-List. The designation recognizes PCC’s outstanding courses in Machine Tool Technology, Welding, Mechatronics, and Building & Construction, and is a huge accomplishment for the College.

Pima Community College is the newest member of The Manufacturing Institute’s M-List. The designation acknowledges PCC’s outstanding Machine Tool Technology, Welding, Mechatronics, and Building and Construction courses.

Enrolled students will be eligible to receive certifications from the National Institute for Metalworking Skills, National Center for Construction Education & Research, and American Welding Society, as well as receive college credit.

In addition to being recognized on the M-List, PCC also participates on The Manufacturing Institute’s Education Council, representing institutions committed to delivering high-quality manufacturing education and training programs designed to meet the skill requirements of the nation’s manufacturers.

The M-List recognizes high schools, community colleges and universities that are teaching manufacturing students to industry standards. Specifically, these institutions offer students the opportunity to earn NAM-Endorsed Manufacturing Skills Certifications as a standard part of their manufacturing education programs. Companies and schools interested in joining the Manufacturing Institute’s effort or learning more can visit themanufacturinginstitute.org/Skills-Certification/M-List/MList.aspx.

The role of grants in higher education

As states experience fiscal challenges, higher education institutions across the U.S. are facing reductions in publicly funded support.  One of the ways to counter this loss of revenue is by winning grants from government and private entities. Pima Community College is actively competing for this source of funding.

Currently, we have 45 active grants, totaling more than $50 million. The grants range in size from $5,000 to $15 million. The grants serve 12,000 students and employ 200 staff and faculty. They provide student support services, curriculum development, professional development for faculty, classroom redesign and other services.

Our most recent grant award is a $3.1 million Hispanic-Serving Institutions Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (HSI-STEM) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will expand student support services and tutoring, and establish specific transfer pathways to Arizona’s four-year universities. The goal is to improve the academic and career success of Hispanic/low-income students by increasing the number of students who receive certificates or degrees from PCC in STEM-related majors, and-or who transfer to STEM fields at Arizona’s three four-year universities.

As Program Coordinator Lupe Waitherwerch told Tucson’s NPR radio affiliate, the goal of the grant is straightforward: “We want [students] to feel like they belong in college to begin with and … be able to believe that they can succeed.”

It’s important to put awards like these into context. First, PCC was in the running for the grant because we are viewed as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. More than 43 percent of our students are Hispanic, far exceeding the 25 percent threshold for an HSI designation from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

The College’s HSI designation benefits not only Hispanic-Latino students, however. Low-income students of every ethnicity are eligible to take advantage of the grant’s resources. As individuals, the students who achieve academic and career success through the program will become Pima County’s taxpayers, homebuyers and entrepreneurs of the future. Additionally, they will enhance southern Arizona’s reputation for producing employees capable of powering cutting-edge 21st-century industries. Everyone will benefit.

It’s also important to recognize the limitations of grants. While grants greatly enhance education of our students, they are not part of the operating budget; our fiscal hurdles remain. Additionally, grants pay for programs for a specific time. The HSI-STEM grant has a five-year life. It is a challenge for colleges and universities to find ways to institutionalize a promising initiative after the money runs out.

So PCC, like most of its counterparts in higher education, will continue to pursue grant opportunities that benefit our students and communities in order to ameliorate the impact of budget reductions. In that respect, we are walking the path well-trod by businesses everywhere. We’re adjusting and diversifying our revenue streams.

Report to the Community

This month’s edition of PCC Spotlight, the College’s e-newsletter, contains my annual Report to the Community.
Some of the topics addressed in the Report:
  • Accreditation: We have submitted a Notice Report to the Higher Learning Commission, a key step in regaining the fullest measure of confidence from our accreditor.
  • Fiscal stewardship: I put into perspective PCC’s budget, property tax rates, and tuition for 2016-17.
  • Student success: We are making strides in improving and expanding pathways for students at the beginning of their education journey.

Propelling economic development in Arizona

I am excited to note that last week Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a measure that represents a major leap forward for Pima Community College and for the economic development of our state.

Through newly enacted Senate Bill 1322, community colleges will be able to help Arizona’s workforce rise to the top of a brutally competitive 21st-century global marketplace.

It removes some caps on spending money necessary to develop career and technical education programs in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, nursing and aviation technology, and in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors. It also provides relief for community colleges engaging in entrepreneurial activities, such as entering into contracts with employers to provide workforce training.

The law does not raise taxes. In fact, it protects the interests of taxpayers by establishing a clear, transparent method for estimating full-time student enrollment used to calculate the College’s expenditure limitation. The law provides PCC with the financial predictability necessary for effective strategic planning.

SB 1322 passed with bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate. The Arizona Legislature and Gov. Ducey deserve praise for recognizing the legislation’s benefits to workforce and career readiness.

PCC joined with the state’s nine other community college districts in championing the legislation, but the effort would not have been successful without the backing of the area’s education, government, business and community leaders. Thank you for your ongoing support!

I am particularly proud of the way the College community stepped up, especially Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Dr. David Bea and Executive Assistant Carl Englander; Executive Director of Media, Government and Community Relations Libby Howell and Advanced Analyst Michael Peel; and contract lobbyist Jonathan Paton.

As Governing Board Chair Mark Hanna remarked last week in a message to the College community, “This success will translate into a stronger Pima Community College that develops and trains students to become future workers and leaders and in turn strengthen our community and its economy. You should be proud of your accomplishment and we appreciate your efforts.” Well said.