Arizonans think more should be done by the stateÔÇÖs education, business and elected leaders to enroll more students in post-secondary education, according to a new poll released by Education Forward Arizona.
ÔÇťArizona voters say that they want more to be done to ensure that a higher share of Arizonans have the opportunity to get that degree or workforce certification,ÔÇŁ said Rich Nickel, the president and CEO of the nonprofit. ÔÇťThree out of four Arizonans say they want this. To me, that sounds like a mandate for action.ÔÇŁ
The poll was conducted to support the bipartisan Achieve60AZ goal, which hopes to add more than 500,000 degrees and certificates by 2030 so that 60% of the stateÔÇÖs population of working adults (between the ages of 25-64) will have a post-secondary certificate, license or degree.
Nickel acknowledged ÔÇťthis is not the flashiest issue,ÔÇŁ but said that ÔÇťthe future of Arizona is literally tied to its educational attainment rate.ÔÇŁ
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He was joined by Dolores Dur├ín-Cerda, interim chancellor of Pima Community College; Shelley Watson, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council; and Trisha Jean Lane, a third-year student at the University of Arizona, to announce the data.
ÔÇťArizona must address our stateÔÇÖs lagging level of post-secondary degrees and certification attainment, especially for our first generation, underrepresented students,ÔÇŁ Dur├ín-Cerda said. ÔÇťThere are Arizona residents, there are 575,000, who donÔÇÖt have either a high school diploma or a college degree. ItÔÇÖs clear that we have the support of all Arizonans to do this work.ÔÇŁ
The interim chancellor said Pima Community College is working hard to support those students seeking post-secondary education. She cited PCCÔÇÖs recently opened advanced manufacturing building, ÔÇťwhich will help position our graduates for jobs that pay family sustaining wagesÔÇŁ in areas such as advanced manufacturing, robotics and welding.
Additionally, the community college has a ÔÇťPima Fast TrackÔÇŁ initiative, offering technical education, training and industry-recognized certificates that can be completed in as little as four months.
The reason PCC has worked so hard to create these programs, Dur├ín-Cerda said, is because the lack of workers with a post-secondary education has begun to impact Southern ArizonaÔÇÖs economy.
Those points were echoed by Shelley Watson, senior vice president and COO of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.
ÔÇťArizonaÔÇÖs prosperity depends on a growing economy, and that economy can only grow if we attract more job-creating businesses and those businesses need to fill their positions with qualified candidates,ÔÇŁ she said. ÔÇťFor the existing employers in Arizona, the labor market really remains extremely tight.ÔÇŁ
According to data from the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, ÔÇťnearly two-thirds, or 65%, of jobs are now professional in nature,ÔÇŁ meaning they require some form of education after high school, Watson said.
Yet despite this, the data shows that only 33% of working-age adults in Tucson have a bachelorÔÇÖs degree or higher, she added.
ÔÇťUltimately, weÔÇÖre interested in improving the quality of life for everybody in Southern Arizona,ÔÇŁ Watson said. ÔÇťEducation is not just a tool. Education promotes a higher quality of life.ÔÇŁ
That is especially true for Trisha Jean Lane, a third-year student at the UA who transferred to the university from PCC.
She is in the environmental engineering undergraduate program and an Arizona science, engineering and mathematics peer mentor, as well as an Arizona space grant intern and a McNair Scholar.
ÔÇťNone of this would have been possible without the ability to pursue education after high school,ÔÇŁ she said. ÔÇťGrowing up on the reservation without running water and electricity, I am dedicated to pursuing a PhD that will enable me to work toward innovative solutions for accessible and affordable water treatment processes to bring clean water to rural communities in Arizona and across the globe.ÔÇŁ
College was a ÔÇťgame changer for me,ÔÇŁ she said.
ÔÇťChange the game for others,ÔÇŁ Lane urged. ÔÇťIf you help create more opportunities for learning and training beyond high school, youÔÇÖll be helping to change the lives of individuals, families, communities and the state.ÔÇŁ
Reporter Ellie Wolfe covers higher education for the ├█╠ĎË░¤˝AV and . Contact: email@example.com.