Employers of all shapes and sizes and from every industry imaginable grapple with the issues of talent sourcing and talent development. Over recent years, employers across the spectrum have consistently reported difficulties finding, hiring and developing qualified talent. Because there is no issue more critical to business success, we consider workforce development an integral component of regional economic development and overall economic success. We intend for the Greater Tucson Region to become home to the single best-prepared workforce anywhere in the country.
Furthermore, our region will not be able to attract, retain and develop the high-quality employers we desire as the foundation of our regional economy without a workforce that is prepared with the skills, knowledge and experiences necessary for success in the 21st Century workplace. Site selectors and businesses looking for a location for expansion or relocation increasingly cite the available workforce as a key differentiator.
Lastly, as our economy grows and our investments in economic development and business attraction bear fruit, it is important the new opportunities contribute greatly to the benefit of our citizens. Skills are the currency of the new economy, and our vision is that Tucson’s workforce is well equipped with the knowledge, abilities and competencies that bring value in the modern workforce.
The Tucson Metro Chamber commissioned the Workforce Blueprint Initiative to enable a regional approach to the issues associated with the region’s workforce and the talent development ecosystem. While the Chamber is not a direct provider of education or workforce development services, this initiative is intended to leverage the Chamber’s role as the voice of business and position the Chamber as the “air traffic controller” for workforce and career-driven education efforts in the region. The objectives are to inventory current assets and roadblocks, develop targeted strategies, and build partnerships and structures that will deliver value for years to come.
The project utilized a deliberate, three-phase approach to developing the strategy:
Labor market analysis
The labor market analysis was conducted by the Partnership for Workforce Innovation and leveraged public demographics, employment and wage data to create a data-driven perspective on the economy and the labor market in the Greater Tucson Region. Demographics trends were evaluated, profiles of leading industries were created, and the region’s recovery from the Great Recession was summarized.
Seven key findings from the demographics analysis, four related to the labor market and three from the industry profiles, were assembled to form the initial parameters for the project.
The employer survey sought to refine the findings of the labor market analysis with the real-world perspectives of the region’s employers. In particular, the survey solicited employers’ thoughts on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and our public response to it. The accounts and recommendations of the region’s employers refined the findings of the labor market analysis and provided the framework for the strategies of the Tucson Workforce Blueprint Initiative.
The volunteer Steering Committee provided guidance and expertise throughout the initiative, and at each step, their input helped direct, refine and finalize the strategic recommendations. The broad perspective and deep expertise these community leaders provided made the final product more practical, more actionable and more likely to have a broad, lasting impact on the region’s talent development ecosystem.
There are three components within each of the five strategic recommendations: an aspirational statement, practical strategies and profiles of relevant programs. The plan also includes commitments from the Chamber on certain strategies as well as calls to the business community to engage in this plan and to bring resources to bear alongside the Chamber as it seeks to support the region’s talent development ecosystem.
This project included an analysis of demographics and employment in the region, the perspectives of a broad spectrum of business leaders on their workforce goals and strategies, an overview of the community’s view on our recovery from the pandemic, and the inputs of public and business leaders in focused efforts to translate all that intelligence into actionable strategies that will position the region as the home of an extraordinarily skilled workforce and a destination of choice for the most high-value employers in the country.
The strategic plan that follows is organized into five strategies. Each strategy is summarized by an aspirational statement, followed by a rationale based on the intelligence gathered through this process and details about the implementation we envision. Because this initiative intended from the beginning not to reinvent any wheels, but rather to unify and empower the assets already making a difference in our community, we also include profiles of existing programs and initiatives that are relevant to each strategy. Some of the strategies include actions to which the Tucson Metro Chamber is committing, while others are a call to the business community and/or civic leadership.
It is the belief of the sponsors and partners in this project that deployment and management of these initiatives with even a fraction of the dedication, expertise and passion that went into designing them will redound to the benefit of the Greater Tucson Region for generations
Also listed are Program Profiles that have been identified throughout this research as examples of initiatives that embody the identified strategy. As this plan is a living, breathing document, more profiles will be added.
Employers, educators and business organizations in the Greater Tucson Region should consistently support innovative education-industry partnerships, including a system of high-quality Career and Technical Education aligned to the needs of the business community.
It is the recommendation of this project that employers, job seekers, civic leaders, educational entities, workforce development organizations, nonprofit and community-based organizations, and other stakeholders increase participation in and commitment to the many industry-education partnerships currently thriving in the Greater Tucson Region and to explore opportunities to create new efforts that will set the bar for sector-based strategies across the state.
The Tucson Metro Chamber is committing to highlighting existing industry-education partnerships and supporting their efforts where possible. The Chamber will also participate in and provide leadership to new, viable partnerships and initiatives of this type.
The Tucson community is coming together to launch our first comprehensive centralized workforce development and talent optimization solution. This holistic “end-to-end” model connects and integrates our existing workforce development ecosystem resources to provide a trusted and unbiased universal hub to support ALL of our students, job seekers, and employers across all industries. This public-private partnership approach strategically links all levels of talent to existing career opportunities, while also providing a career development pipeline directly to our education and training partners. Leveraging proven technology, every employer, student, and job seeker can access the resources they need – establishing Tucson, and our state, as a national showcase of workforce innovation, helping us address the complex workforce development challenges today and in the future.
A number of Workforce Collaboratives are currently being convened by the Tucson Metro Chamber. These collaboratives bring industry, education, civic and workforce development stakeholders to the table to develop strategies that will connect priority sectors like Construction and Healthcare to the pipelines of talent they need to thrive.
A collaborative of regional employers and stakeholders should fund and launch the Tucson Move IT Up Initiative.
The new Tucson Move IT Up initiative will leverage the marketing and public relations capacity of the Tucson Metro Chamber and its partners for an outreach/public relations campaign that encourages underemployed and unemployed adults to develop and validate cybersecurity, networking and software development skills in relevant college programs of study and industry training programs. It will also seek to create a scholarship fund that enables adult learners with some college experience to return to school to pursue education in one of these high-priority fields.
In the 21st Century economy, every company is a tech company, and every company relies on technically skilled talent. This initiative has the potential to equip the Tucson workforce with cutting edge technical skills, including software development, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.
The plan includes:
- Unify the region’s IT talent initiatives under a single banner
- Launch a public relations initiative that informs the community of resources and options for returning to school to earn a credential in one of the region’s high-demand IT fields
- Leverage and build on the work of the Pathways to Prosperity initiative to craft a career pathway model that includes experiences from grades 7 through 14 and into employment
- Launch moveITup.com as a hub for the initiative’s activities and resources (URL donated by Nextrio, a member of the project’s steering committee)
- Lobby for the development of communications infrastructure that will make every home in the region suitable for remote work
- The initiative will organize its work into two separate lanes: growing IT careers here in Tucson and attracting existing talent to the region
The work of the initiative will be organized into two streams: growing IT talent and attracting IT talent. Employers in the Greater Tucson Region employ thousands of workers with advanced IT skills, yet the difficulties these employers report in sourcing, hiring and developing this talent is troubling. It is the intent of this initiative not only to encourage workers in the region to develop and refine critical IT skills, but also to attract established talent from other regions to become valuable components of the Greater Tucson Region’s technical workforce. The Tucson Metro Chamber is committed to lobbying for the communications infrastructure that will enable the region to become the most remote-work-ready community in the country.
The University of Arizona graduates over 950 students per year with degrees in Computer and Information related degrees. These include the #1 ranked public university graduate program in Management Information Systems offered by the Eller College of Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Cyber Operations that counts among the 21 programs nationally recognized by the National Security Agency and National Center for Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, offered by the College of Applied Science and Technology.
Pima Community College is a leading institution in Computer Information Systems programming and offers a range of training that maps to industry-recognized credentials like IT Support Specialist, IT Support Technician and Network Administrator. The college is leading a consortium of eight institutions that offer an entirely online experience that includes multiple certifications with significant value in the labor market.
The Tucson Metro Chamber, in conjunction with Pima County, should establish the Tucson Employer Development Program.
The new Tucson Employer Development Program will synthesize those standards into training programs and certification options for the region’s businesses who want to earn a new designation as an “Employer of Choice.”
As noted in the employer survey, there is a point at which employers want to be responsible for the sourcing, development and/or retention of their own talent. This strategy seeks to connect employers to regional workforce-related resources and to validate their commitments to concepts and standards that align with the values and priorities of the Greater Tucson Region.
A taskforce will be assembled by the Chamber in partnership with Pima County and the City of Tucson and will be tasked with determining the requirements for earning the “Employer of Choice” designation. The detailed standards of the program will be formalized by the taskforce, but at a minimum will include:
- Understanding and accessing the region’s workforce-related resources
- Strategies and resources for in-house talent development programs
- Embracing diversity and building a diverse workforce
- Opportunities to provide leadership in the education and workforce development spaces, including work-based learning opportunities, apprenticeships, and advisory boards
Employers who earn the designation will receive a letter from the county, window/digital decals and/or other tools for displaying their status to potential employees. It is hoped the designation will be a source of pride for individual organizations, as well as a distinguishing characteristic of the community that will aid efforts to attract high-level talent to the region’s priority industry sectors. Training classes will be offered regularly at times and locations to be determined by the taskforce.
The Greater Tucson Region should organize efforts to effectively highlight the career opportunities in the region and attract high-level talent in critical industries.
The Tucson Metro Chamber Talent Attraction & Retention Task Force has been working on this issue for years, and this project recommends the Task Force be supported by civic, community and business stakeholders.
The Chamber, in partnership with Visit Tucson, the Arizona Tech Council, and other stakeholders, should create an asset bank of content that highlights the region’s breadth and depth of high-quality career opportunities. These assets should include videos, industry profiles, talking points and statistics, images and testimonials. The asset bank will be maintained by the Tucson Metro Chamber, and other organizations will be able to use the resources of the Chamber Asset Bank to support talent attraction campaigns.
The region’s economic development organizations have an intentional, thoughtful approach to developing a pipeline of business opportunities that could bring new employers and new high-quality jobs to the region. In a similar vein, the Talent Attraction & Retention Task Force, in partnership with Start Up Tucson, Tucson Young Professionals, Visit Tucson and other partners should develop an intentional, strategic plan for marketing the region as a great home from which to grow a high-tech career. With appropriate funding and leadership, the region could be represented at educational institutions with leading relevant programs of study and in industry associations that represent target economic sectors. These efforts would be aimed not necessarily at attracting businesses and capital investments, but also at attracting talent and marketing the region as an attractive home for professionals in Health Care, Aerospace, Mining, Logistics and other high value sectors.
Sun Corridor Inc.’s role is to coordinate all economic development activities and programs within the Southern Arizona megaregion under one umbrella. The primary goal of Sun Corridor Inc. is to facilitate primary (non-retail) job and investment growth in the region. Their work also includes creating a competitive environment that allows primary employers to flourish and succeed.
StartUp Tucson works collaboratively across the innovation ecosystem to lift up and support our partners, with the collective goal of inspiring and elevating entrepreneurs to create and innovate in order to build a more equitable, vibrant, and forward-looking economy. One of their programs, Remote Tucson, invites national talent to consider Tucson as the ideal place to work remotely.
The Greater Tucson Career Literacy Initiative should organize business and community leaders to bring information, connections and exposure related to high-quality careers into Pima County’s classrooms.
The Greater Tucson Career Literacy Initiative will partner with school districts, the CTED and the Center for the Future of Arizona to identify opportunities within the educational framework to introduce career-focused content and activities to students.
The Tucson Metro Chamber should convene a taskforce that includes the Pima Career and Technical Education District and representatives from a pilot school district. This taskforce will establish plans for developing a bank of assets that includes a speakers bureau, guided activities for student use of Pipeline AZ, guidelines and materials for industry days, and a Reality Check exercise among other assets. The Lenses on the Future curriculum will be made as widely available as possible to introduce students to the region’s highest-value career pathways. It will also develop a model for sharing the assets in the regional education system.