Two major challenges face Arizona’s workforce development efforts. First, Arizona’s job creators require a reliable talent pipeline in order to meet the demands of today’s jobs and to prepare for tomorrow’s emerging industries. Second, Arizona’s students are seeking educational options that are relevant, engaging, and that will prepare them for employment or future study after the 12th grade.
Legislation introduced by state Sen. Sylvia Allen meets both of those challenges head-on.
AN OUTCOMES-BASED APPROACH THAT SUPPORTS STUDENTS AND INDUSTRY
Sen. Allen’s Senate Bill 1270 would help fund industry certifications in in-demand fields for interested high school students, and establish bonuses for teachers who are assisting students in translating their academic and vocational learning into marketable credentials.
This is the type of outcomes-based approach that supports student and industry goals, and helps grow student-centered programs in high school while addressing workforce needs in the modern economy, all while maintaining the rigor necessary to prepare students for work and education post-high school.
Long gone are the days when Career and Technical Education (CTE) was an alternative educational path that would not have prepared a student to exit the 12th grade ready for post-secondary education. On the contrary, CTE today is a very practical way to become ready for further study, not to mention a way to make oneself ready for the workplace in a wide breadth of fields.
CTE PREPARES STUDENTS FOR TOMORROW’S JOBS
Today’s CTE aligns with what employment experts predict will be required of tomorrow’s workforce. According to “The Age of Agility,” a report by America Succeeds, forty-four percent of today’s jobs that require less than a high school diploma are at risk to give way to automation, but only 8 percent of jobs that require an industry certification are equally at risk. Within the next two decades, 80 percent of today’s careers will be gone, replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) or new jobs yet to come along.
This transition won’t happen suddenly. We’re experiencing it right now, and it will only accelerate. As Michael Simpson, CEO of workforce development group PAIRIN says, “When your job changes, or the machine you’re on changes, your skills will need to change or you’ll be out of luck.”
There is no single way to inoculate yourself against the changes in the workplace that will come from greater automation and AI. But having technical skills today that can translate to the technical skills needed tomorrow gives you a fighting chance to be an in-demand worker, while tens of millions of low-skilled workers will be replaced and unemployed.
CTE AND CERTIFICATION: LAYING THE FOUNDATION FOR LIFELONG LEARNING
Readiness is not just a trade certificate, license, or degree. Most workers will end their careers with a mix of all of the above. But these skills can be layered over time, and students who start early with the kinds of certifications incentivized by SB 1270 have the best chance of mastering a workplace changing in real time every day. Certifications are a valuable educational tool because they signal to employers a preparedness for work, and they lay the groundwork for additional training later at a private technical institution, community college, university, or job-embedded training and apprenticeships.
Education must evolve not just for the needs of the current and future workforce, but for the needs of today’s students. These students want experiences to grow their knowledge. Hands-on work and tangible outcomes such as certification, licensure, and earning college credit in high school are critical to engaging students and readying them for their future. These types of programs and opportunities must be integrated into modern K-12 and post-secondary models.
CTE IS ESSENTIAL TO ARIZONA’S EDUCATIONAL OFFERINGS
The Arizona Chamber has been the business community’s most consistent and vocal proponent of CTE, having championed the restoration of its funding when it was cut, and advocating for funding to include ninth-graders. It’s a position we’ve held since previous gubernatorial administrations.
The Chamber has successfully advocated for policies that incent the offering and acquisition of advanced placement (AP) credit that can be applied to college. Sen. Allen’s bill aligns with our belief that high school should lead to meaningful outcomes.
Students, teachers, and employers all win here. Seldom does such a win-win come along. We should seize this moment.
The Chamber strongly supports SB 1270 and other CTE pathways. It deserves to become