I started my professional career at the Tucson Metro Chamber 21 years ago and after working for the City of Tucson, Metropolitan Pima Alliance and Sun Corridor Inc., and I am happy to rejoin the chamber as vice president to lead initiatives and programs designed to improve business conditions in our beautiful community.
As a native Tucsonan, I take pride in the work I do to help our corner of the world grow and succeed.
One of those initiatives is workforce development and talent attraction. If there was one take-away from my years of experience with various business organizations, it’s that a vast majority of the retention, expansion and relocation decisions are based on the skills and workforce readiness of a community. It’s the first question site selectors and company executives ask.
The Tucson Metro Chamber has made the issue of workforce development and talent attraction a priority. Making sure employers can find and hire people with advanced hard and soft skills leads to better productivity and more innovative concepts. And while the focus at my previous job was on companies looking to expand or relocate to our region, the issue of better trained workers is just as important to companies that already call Tucson home.
I should clarify the distinct difference between workforce development and talent attraction. I’ll start with workforce development.
There are many organizations and institutions involved in workforce development. Pima Community College, Pima County One-Stop, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Joint Technology Education District—just to name a few—all contribute to educating our current and future workforce. The chamber considers all of these partners, and the chamber’s role is working with the business community to identify the skills demand and matching that with the skills supply developed at our outstanding educational institutions.
The acknowledgment of that connection between business and education is growing, and Lee Lambert, chancellor of Pima Community College, recently stated the following:
“Pima has a renewed commitment to work with our business community to meet their training needs. We hired a vice president of workforce development who has been instrumental in both rejuvenating relationships with our existing business partners and forging new ones.” (Inside Tucson Business, 2016)
Another great example of collaboration seen between industry and education is the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering Industry Partner Board. Dr. Jeff Goldberg, former dean of the College of Engineering and now interim provost for Dr. Robbins, created the IPB to not only ensure the skills developed in his college matched those of industry standards, but also for reasons that relate to the further development of new and innovative ideas.
The chamber will continue to forge additional partnerships between the business community and our educational partners to build a stronger workforce.
Talent attraction is just as critical as our community works to bolster our competitiveness as compared to our peer markets. Raytheon is our largest private employer, and even with their success hiring graduates from the University of Arizona, there simply are not enough individuals with the skills they need in our region to meet the demand of their recent expansion announcement.
And Raytheon is certainly not the only employer feeling this pinch. In fact, Tucson is not the only community challenged with finding and attracting the right talent. But communities implementing strategies that showcase the amenities of the community and connect talented individuals with employers are destined to succeed.
Over the coming months, the Tucson Metro Chamber will be leading an effort, working with many partners and members, to build a talent attraction platform. These platforms or programs come in a variety of formats, but the bottom line is convincing young professionals or young entrepreneurs that Tucson is the inspiring place we all know it to be. Through videos, job portals, websites and social media, we will more comprehensively and creatively tell our story to those looking for new opportunities.
So, what has your experience been? Do our higher educational institutions provide the pipeline of talent you need or are you having to look elsewhere? Do you engage with high school students to help guide them toward your particular industry? As we move forward with these initiatives, we will need your input. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Guymon is the vice president of the Tucson Metro Chamber.