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Funding 4th year CTE training will produce qualified workforce

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Arizona’s historic economic fortunes hinged on a healthy and booming construction industry. The men and women who build our homes, malls and employment centers helped the state thrive throughout the decades.

Construction jobs are still plentiful in the Valley and in rural areas. But the number of people qualified in the trades falls short. We need to either import more potential employees or create them in our schools. Our industry is experiencing tremendous growth, and this is a direct indicator of the success of other market sectors. As we continue to experience growth we face serious challenges to fill thousands of construction jobs with skilled workers amid tight labor market conditions.

The state’s 14 career and technical education (CTE) districts have become a vital partner to help prepare the next generation of skilled and responsible workers after high school. But still the industry sees a shortage of workers capable of contributing on day one. Our CTE partners need more help.

For that, the education and business communities have turned to a program that was a great success before the recession hit a decade ago. Now, with the state on solid financial footing, many in the business community say it is time to reinvest in a proven program to provide the competent workers of tomorrow.

Many programs at the state’s CTE districts need all four years of high school for a student to balance all of their academic requirements while pursuing industry certifications. The Legislature cut the fourth-year funding during the Great Recession. Several legislators are now spearheading an effort to restore the funding. The business community strongly supports the legislation.

The fiscal impact on the state budget for the foreseeable future is minimal. But the impact on the economy will be significant. The cost could be as little as $900,000 for the next fiscal year and just $4 million in 2021. Because students who pursue workplace certifications in high school earn diplomas at a much higher percentage than the average student, Sen. Heather Carter’s SB1065 to fund the fourth year of CTE training is one of the most important education bills this legislative session.

Construction is but one area where a fourth year is needed to adequately prepare students for the workforce. CTE districts also want to add more time in the agricultural, manufacturing and automotive fields, among others.

As an executive with the Sundt Corp. and as the president of the Arizona Builders Alliance, we see firsthand the quality of employees who come directly from CTE programs. These students often received better training and already obtained required certifications that make them extremely valuable. CTE programs put our future workforce on a pathway to secure, high-paying jobs with endless opportunity for continuous learning and career development.

Restoring fourth-year funding for CTE programs would have a much-needed positive impact on Arizona construction and its economy. The growth in construction is a direct indicator of Arizona’s economic vitality. An investment in full restoration for CTE fourth-year funding is a win-win for Arizona.

— Dan Haag is senior vice president and chief administrative officer of Sundt Corp.

— Tom Dunn is president of Arizona Builders Alliance. 

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