workforce development

Find original article published here on azcentral.com. Written by TJ Gibson. 

Sometimes it’s hard to put a dollar figure on education. How do you quantify whether a degree or certificate changed someone’s life? How do you know if the courses you offer are meeting the needs of the community? As it turns out, that’s not that hard to figure out – especially when you have your thumb on the pulse of the intersection of workforce training and community industry.

A recent study for Phoenix College (PC), by the Maricopa District Workforce Development Department found more than 33 percent of students attending the college in what’s called Occupational Programs, those which directly feed into jobs in the community. Established in 1920, PC serves approximately 17,937 students each year, offering more than 150 degree and certificate programs, including three online degrees. 

One of the main goals for Phoenix College is to feed the business community with new trained, prepared workers. By working intimately with surrounding business leaders, PC has been able to meet the demand in most career areas like dental hygiene, fire science/firefighting, architectural and civil drafting, paralegal and legal assistant and phlebotomy. That’s quite a feat considering the mass exodus of baby boomers the last few years.

Just the occupations in health care alone are expected to have a growth rate of approximately 34% by 2026. In fact, PC is working hard to keep up with the demand for Clinical Laboratory Techs and Dental Assistants as those fields explode. Another area of demand? Bookkeeping and Accounting Techs. The jobs currently open and estimated to be open in this area exceeds the number of graduates.

How does all this help the college prepare a workforce? First, they listen. Each program area has its own advisory board made up of business leaders that actually work in that field. The college directors ask the hard questions like: What are our students doing right, and what are we missing? What do you need our graduates to be better at? Even, what soft skills are students lacking by the time you hire them? PC also has thousands of alumni that feed into the college’s knowledge database about regional workforce needs.

And finally, hundreds of business partnerships that offer scholarships, internships, and jobs keep PC at the top of the list for workforce readiness. There’s no sense having a mindset of “if we build it, they will come” in today’s rapidly changing workforce. PC doesn’t rest on its 100+-year-old laurels.

“It’s critically important to us that our graduates are workforce ready, so we are constantly refining and revising our programs according to what the workforce needs and asks of us,” said Maria Reyes, Phoenix College Dean of Industry and Public Service. “We know we are one of the first places employers look when they need new employees that have been trained to industry standards.”

As Phoenix College moves forward, it will continue to have its ear to the ground for the latest career developments, but also developing new programs to meet rapidly growing needs like bookkeeping, financial advisement and analysis, insurance underwriting and claims and real estate sales/management. Of course, PC continues to grow their computer applications, graphic design, information systems, web development, and design and other IT offerings as Maricopa County population is projected to grow 23 percent between 2016 and 2026.

In a separate study, conducted by Emsi in March 2019 for Phoenix College, researchers found that PC adds economic value to Maricopa County in multiple ways: As an employer of county residents and a large-scale buyer of goods and services; student spending; and alumni impact of graduates who go on to add to the economy of Maricopa. PC’s total economic impact was $802.2 million, supporting 10,298 jobs in the county. So, for every dollar of public money invested in PC, taxpayers received a cumulative value of $5.20 over the course of the students’ working lives. Now, that’s some seriously good ROI.

To prepare for your future in the workforce of your choice, visit https://www.phoenixcollege.edu/.

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