Tag Archives: manufacturing

Connecting with manufacturing

Pima Community College has been at the center of several recent events aimed at building our relationships to the manufacturing sector of the economy. Here is a look at some of the ways PCC has been involved in connecting with businesses and development groups for the benefit of our students and the community:

ribbonTrane outside

  • PCC hosted the Acceleration Now! Tour at Downtown Campus on Oct. 3. The event was sponsored by Trane, which makes climate control solutions for homes and businesses. The tour is a 70-city trade show featuring the latest in heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment. Originally, Tucson was not a tour destination, but Vice Chancellor of Facilities Bill Ward prevailed on Trane to make a stop here. The result was the tour’s best-attended event so far, as engineers, architects and business leaders joined PCC staff, administrators and faculty in an endeavor whose goals included raising the level of technical education for students and developing the most effective workforce of tomorrow. Hats off to PCC’s team that planned the event for a first-class operation.
  • In conjunction with the Acceleration Now! Tour stop, the College hosted a roundtable discussion featuring leaders of the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3), which connects businesses and schools to develop and sustain industry-recognized portable certifications in industries ranging from transportation to energy to aviation. [I’m proud to serve on NC3’s Board of Directors.] I moderated a discussion between PCC faculty and administrators and representatives of Trane, manufacturer W.W. Grainger and other companies. NC3 Executive Director Roger Tadajewski noted that 10,000 people retire every day in the U.S., and pointed out that in HVAC, for example, the average age of a technician is 55. “Where are we going to get the talent?” Roger asked, to fill the skills gaps that are widening in many occupations.
  • As part of the Southern Arizona Manufacturing Partnership’s Manufacturing Day event in Tucson, Downtown Campus hosted a tour of its Machine Tool Technology facilities and its Veterans Center. Attending the tour was Jennifer McNelly, president of the Manufacturing Institute, the non-profit affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers. [I’m also proud to be a founding member of the education council of the Manufacturing Institute.] Veterans were the focus of the day’s activities. In a gathering at the Kino Veterans Center, three PCC student-veterans, ranging in age from their 20s to 68, shared how a PCC technical education has helped them sharpen their skills, find jobs or inspire them to start their own company.

Manufacturing employs 155,000 people in Arizona and as Jennifer said last week, the sector is the lifeblood of towns across the U.S. PCC is committed to providing its students with the skills and opportunities to succeed in in this essential economic sector, and to support a workforce that can drive innovation and prosperity in our community.

Good news follows good deeds

Pima Community College and nearly 270 other community colleges across the nation received some very good news out of Washington on Monday. We are the winners of $450 million in federal grant money aimed at providing workers with the skills they need to get ahead.

In our case, PCC has been awarded $2.5 million to train workers for careers in aviation, mining and manufacturing. As I noted in the news release that went out yesterday, the award is recognition of our potential to develop Southern Arizona’s 21st century economy.

It is significant that this was a competitive grant. Thanks to the hard work of many, PCC has demonstrated that we can compete on a national level for critically important resources. As Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez put it in an email to grant recipients, PCC now is part of “a community of forward-thinking and impassioned education professionals who are leading a movement to build opportunity and strengthen the skilled workforce we need for the future.”

Just as important, the job-training funds headed our way are intended to foster closer partnerships between community colleges and employers looking for skilled employees. Working in a more collaborative manner with business and industry is essential for PCC and all community colleges if we want to stay relevant in a rapidly changing economy. This grant will help us achieve that goal.

In a blog post published after the grant announcement, Secretary Perez referred to community colleges as “the secret sauce of workforce development, empowering communities, strengthening businesses and invigorating local economies.” As far as I’m concerned, he hit the nail right on the head.

Sector partnerships: Collaborations for economic growth

I spent some time this morning at PCC’s East Campus, visiting with students at the start of the Spring semester. Hearing their stories always is inspirational – it reminds me why we’re here and gets me thinking about new ways we can serve our community.

Educating students so that they’re ready to succeed in the 21st century is at the top of our to-do list. By aligning resources and priorities with those of area employers and other constituents, PCC has an opportunity to help drive economic development in our community.

That was the message at the heart of a presentation to the PCC Governing Board last week. The presentation was facilitated by the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), an economic development organization whose charge is to transform the state into an economic powerhouse.

That’s a goal we all can get behind, and the ACA website lists seven key industry sectors that represent the best opportunities for expansion:
Aerospace and defense
Technology and innovation
Optics/photonics
Bioscience and health care
Renewable energy
Advanced manufacturing
Advanced business services

These sectors offer avenues for the College to partner with established local industry to provide the well-trained employees needed for growth. But the key points made at the presentation by economic development expert John Melville involved the complex human synergy needed for the sector partnership process to succeed.

Sector partnerships are employer-driven collaborations among companies in a specific industry cluster. These companies, normally competitors, buy into the notion that growing and expanding the sector benefits everyone. The employers work with governments, educators, labor, economic development groups and community organizations on a holistic approach to growth. Having access to an education pipeline producing qualified workers is a necessary condition to success, but it’s not sufficient. Infrastructure, marketing, government regulation, access to export markets – all must be optimized for growth to occur.

Suffice it to say that a partnership’s success isn’t guaranteed. My experience with similar economic development efforts in Washington state is that a lot of hard decisions must be made by all partners for the process to bear fruit. Often, partners must overcome internal opposition to make the significant changes needed to align their organization with the partnership’s goals and objectives. For the collaboration to succeed, I have found that all partners have to think a little less about “me” and a little more about “us.” The best partnerships are champion-driven “coalitions of the willing” who are truly ready to work together.

Among the first steps in the process is educating interested parties through ACA-facilitated academies that map out the road ahead for the interested parties. An academy for advanced manufacturing is planned for the spring. The College has been invited, and will attend. We welcome the opportunity to cooperate with our external constituents for the tangible economic benefit of our students and the community.

Listening to the community

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There’s an old saying that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. In that spirit, I have spent my first two weeks as Chancellor listening to the College’s many constituents. I have met and heard from business and education leaders, groups of concerned community members, individuals impacted by the former Chancellor, PCC employees, and government leaders at the federal, state and local levels.

I am heartened by what I’ve heard. People care deeply about Pima because it has such a broad and deep connection to the community. They want Pima to be at its best. In that context, I appreciate the apology included in the Message to the Community in the draft Monitoring Report that PCC is preparing for the Higher Learning Commission. We need to own the fact that we didn’t live up to our ideals. We need to acknowledge that the wheels on the bus came off before we begin making substantive improvements to our processes.

I also have been heartened that many community members are hopeful the College will successfully emerge from probation. Granted, theirs is a cautious optimism, and is tinged with healthy skepticism. But many people realize PCC takes the probation sanction very seriously, and has put in place an effective process, led by Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jerry Migler, that will allow us to reflect, learn from our mistakes and improve our service to the community.

The College’s decision to reaffirm its open-admissions policy is a strong first step in that direction. The Governing Board, at a Special Meeting June 25, supported a resolution removing language from Standard Practice Guide 3501/AA in order to make permanent an earlier one-year suspension of minimum-level scoring on assessment examinations. The reality is that open access historically has been the reason for the existence of community colleges. The College shouldn’t turn someone away any more than a hospital should.

I have also heard widespread agreement that PCC has a crucial role to play in the economic development of our region. Many jobs of the future will be concentrated in industries that make and service new products. These jobs will not necessarily require a bachelor’s or advanced degree but can be the backbone of a prosperous, stable community. PCC is perfectly positioned to teach machinists, mechanics and other workers – many of whom will require sub-baccalaureate scientific, technical and engineering training — to meet new opportunities in the rapidly evolving global economy. I look forward to collaborating with the business community so that the College can continue to provide the best equipment and expertise to its students. I am committed to listening to the College’s stakeholders, the students, employees, and community members whom I am proud to serve.