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The United States is at the front-end of the greatest talent shortage in our history. The combination of unprecedented global competition, historically low unemployment rates, unacceptable high school dropout rates and the departure of 80 million baby boomers from the workforce​​ demand better talent supply chain models.

Attracting, growing and retaining talent has become a battle cry across industries, with many companies and communities scrambling to develop solutions. Specifically, aerospace, manufacturing, construction and IT/cyber are all concerned about future talent needs, and the problem is exacerbated by the fact that all are facing the same challenge. Many groups are trying to create their own one-off siloed industry-focused programs working to reach students and families earlier in their career exploration and education selection process.

The primary problem is not the tight labor market, innovation moving faster than our ability to train talent, or the lack of workforce development and training resources. The problem is that there are so many siloed, overlapping efforts that are not strategically aligned at the local, state, and national levels. Students and job seekers are confused and cannot find what they need when they need it to make informed career and training decisions.

Together we must drive greater career awareness, for all industries, to students as early as middle school so they can identify career pathways that match their interests. We must give them, and their families, the hope, relevance and support they need to complete high school and make informed training and education decisions so they can secure rewarding careers.

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 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—which will help us address the complex workforce development challenges today and in the future.

In tandem, the Tucson Metro Chamber is convening industry leaders alongside workforce development advisors to create a Workforce Development Blueprint. The report will, under the guidance of a strong Steering Committee, inventory workforce-related programs, collect and analyze labor-market data and narrow down the inventory to five targeted programs. The result of this blueprint will include five recommendations on how the chamber and the business community can effectively support those programs and the region’s overall talent development ecosystem.

We must become more competitive as a region and state in addressing workforce needs in order to recruit companies. Outside investment and business growth is the number one way to grow commerce in our community. Commerce results in resources toward education, training, parks, transportation—all critical elements to having a strong economy.

The chamber is putting the right pieces together to lower poverty by connecting talent to high-demand industry, identifying skills gaps and understanding what programs are best building the high-demand skill sets. Each of these efforts require significant investment community wide. Through collective impact by industry, talent, job trainers and donors, we are building a community of talent with self-sustainable wages that will lead us to not only being more competitive as a community, but will directly reduce poverty.