For the past two decades, Arizona has consistently ranked as one of the fastest growing states in the nation. This growth in population provides a significant opportunity for Arizona to develop a strong workforce that supports economic development and prosperity for the citizens of the state.
However, realizing this opportunity will require a focus on student outcomes, educational attainment, and connecting education and industry in effective ways.
Center for the Future of Arizona recently released the report, “Vision 2025: Arizona Comes of Age,” which drives Arizona toward a future where citizens and leaders share a common roadmap, we work across sectors to tackle our biggest challenges, and we offer excellence and equity in education for all.
One of CFA’s new initiatives, Arizona Pathways to Prosperity, is designed to do just that. Funded in Arizona by the Governor’s Office, Arizona Community Foundation and JP Morgan Chase, the initiative partners Arizona with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Jobs for the Future and 11 other states in an effort to help students find careers they are passionate about that pay a good wage.
In Phoenix, APTP will bring together education and business partners to prepare students for careers in information technology and energy. In Tucson, efforts will focus on bioscience and advanced manufacturing industries.
The pathways will not stop with simply preparing students for the technical skills needed for success in a particular field. They will start with a solid academic foundation that can open doors and provide students the flexibility and choice they will need to navigate a world that is constantly changing. APTP focuses on the entire student and ensures they are not only prepared with the technical skills they need in a particular field, but that they can solve problems, work in teams, work effectively in a professional environment, and adapt to the changing workplace.
Achieving economic opportunity for all Arizonans depends on providing a high-quality, rigorous K-12 education for every child, as well as increasing the percent of the population that earns a credential beyond high school — be it from a college, trade, or technical school.
Arizona will advance these career pathways by addressing the following implementation strategies:
• Early, sustained career information, exposure, and advising
• Opportunities for students to earn at least 12 college credits while in high school that are aligned to the requirements of the chosen career pathway and related credential
• Collaboration between business and education for the improvement and development of career pathways
• Engage employers through work-based learning opportunities
• Committed state leaders and a favorable policy environment
In order to close the gap between what is necessary to support a thriving economy and where we are today, we must increase educational attainment across the board. We must recognize that the path to financial independence and a rewarding career can be different for each person.
Arizona must move beyond a “one size fits all” model of education to one that strengthens and embraces comprehensive, personalized, multiple pathways that maximize individual student success. The Arizona Pathways to Prosperity Initiative is a part of the solution to help Arizona’s educational system ensure excellence and equity for all.
There are many programs in the Valley and in Tucson focused on creating opportunities for students in our state to develop skills that will help us meet the needs of the workforce and we applaud these efforts. It is only when we are all working together to achieve a common goal will we be able to provide Arizona the education it needs.
To learn more about Arizona Pathways to Prosperity, visit www.arizonafuture.org/education-redesign/pathways-to-prosperity/.
— Sybil Francis is executive director of the Center for the Future of Arizona.