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The Future Workforce of Arizona

Neighborhood Ministries > Blog > The Future Workforce of Arizona

Last week, I attended a City of Phoenix Workforce Development training.  It is projected that by 2020, the majority of jobs will require post-secondary training.  Arizona ranks 5th in Fortune’s list of fastest growing tech markets and currently has the highest entrepreneurial activity rate of any other state.  By 2020, there will be 55 million job vacancies, yet, despite the inevitable demand for educated workers only about 10% of Latinos will graduate from college.  By 2020, 62% of Arizonans in poverty will be Hispanic, and 31% White.

These projections point to the conclusion that Arizona could face a serious economic crisis with an under-educated workforce, degraded revenue opportunities, a heavy financial burden of public services and fewer features to attract new businesses and entrepreneurs and to retain existing ones.

But this isn’t really news.  The truth is not much has changed since 12 years ago, when the Morison Institute for Public Policy announced similar statistics in their report Five Shoes Waiting to Drop; and was confirmed again in 2012 by their follow up report, Dropped?.  The facts are all the same….  Arizona has an ageing white population, a young Latino population and while the demand for a highly educated workforce continues to grow, Arizona is struggling to get Latino youth in and through its college and university system.

[pullquote style=”right”]An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin[/pullquote]The information has been there for years, and the goals have followed.  President Barack Obama announced his American Graduation Initiative in 2009, setting a goal of restoring the country to first place by 2020 in the number of 25 to 34 year-olds with college degrees.  The Lumina Foundation’s Goal is “to increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.”  Even Arizona Governor, Jan Brewer, has developed state goals for 2020, including:

  • Increasing to 94 percent, up from 73 percent, the number of 3rd graders reading at or near grade level

  • Increasing the high school graduation rate to 93 percent, up from 75 percent

  • Doubling the number of baccalaureate degrees issued by Arizona institutions of higher education.

Arizona does not seem to lack in knowing the facts and does not appear to be lacking in goals, but I do question the readiness to act. Eight years ago, a friend and long time participant of Neighborhood Ministries, a friend who was a mother of one of our education students at Neighborhood Ministries, went with me to pick up our graduation photos. These 1 ½ x 2 foot photos of our high school (and now college!) graduates hang in the large multipurpose room on our campus.  Every year we celebrate Graduate Sunday, honoring students that have overcome the odds and graduated from high school.  When I told her we had 17 graduates she became emotional and remembered how it was not long ago when there was only one.  Neighborhood Ministries’ Education for Life department was birthed out of NM’s love for its community, knowing there was a better way than seeing students drop out of school in 6th grade or, even worse, attending the funerals of the children we loved.  We now have over 50 students in college, are supporting 18 of them with our Wayne and Kit Danley Scholarship Fund and another 25 that are well on their way. [caption id="attachment_7401" align="alignleft" width="300"]P1030440 A graduate and his family enjoy the pride of completing High School. This student went on to benefit from our college scholarship program.[/caption] The statistics are alarming and the goals are high, but Neighborhood Ministries is seeing these goals realized and helping make the dreams of young Arizona, Latino students possible.  We are both willing AND active, promoting high school graduation and college completion by making college accessible for our youth.  I encourage you to join me in the upcoming months as we look at the role Neighborhood Ministries plays in the education of our community youth and how we address the barriers to their education.

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Jeremy Wood is the Education Director for Neighborhood Ministries.  He also serves on the South Phoenix Regional Board for First Things First.

 

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