Putting Knowledge into Action: ‘Communities That Work’ Enhances Arizona’s IT Workforce Initiatives


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Sandra Watson, President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority
Sandra Watson, President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority

Guest post by Sandra Watson, President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority.

Arizona has emerged as one of the fastest-growing technology hubs in the United States.

Our technology and innovation ecosystem has evolved into a place where digital-age entrepreneurs are starting new companies, attracting new venture capital, and testing new models in a rapidly changing marketplace.

At the heart of this growth is Information Technology. IT is ubiquitous – touching nearly every business sector that exists today.

The market demand for a qualified IT workforce is rising, and there is a critical need for current and future tech talent that extends to a wide range of industries. It’s not unique to Arizona. By 2022, IT job openings nationwide are expected to exceed more than 1.3 million.

For this reason, the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) was honored to lead the Greater Phoenix regional team – one of only seven regions nationally – along with our partners, the Arizona Technology Council and Cox Communications, in this groundbreaking workforce program aimed at closing the IT talent gap.

The Aspen Institute’s Communities That Work Partnership, a project of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has been extremely useful in helping Arizona identify critical workforce needs in our IT sector.

The “learning exchange” with other participating regions was valuable, noted Steven Zylstra, President and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.

This blog is a part of a monthly series highlighting the contributions of the Commerce Department’s agencies to the Open for Business Agenda. This month’s focus is on Skills for Business.

“It was really about acquiring the expertise of the Aspen Institute staff and to benefit from the experiences of other regions around the United States who were addressing similar kinds of workforce issues,” Zylstra said.

We are already putting into motion accelerated training programs and workforce certifications in high-demand areas. Working with industry, educational and workforce partners, we identified the most valuable skill profiles for new and growing IT professionals in our region. 

The training and certifications are specifically aligned to the needs identified by industry leaders in the state. For example, we’ve developed a model for moving disconnected youth, ages 16 to 24, through accelerated training programs into industry certifications and then paid internships. This program is designed to be a precursor to full-time employment.

Regarding the program, Rosalyn Boxer, ACA’s Vice President of Workforce Development, shared that, “Instead of speed dating, it’s ‘hire dating,’ in which companies and these individuals will meet each other, learn about one another, and see if they are both interested in taking the next step, which is to do an on-the-job, three- to six-month training period as an employee of that company.”

Cox Communications, one of our key partners and a major IT employer in Arizona, said the Communities That Work Partnership is poised to pay future dividends in finding qualified and diverse workforce talent.

“Cox will benefit from this partnership by continuing to have a pulse on the IT market in the region and recruiting, and also to be able to strengthen our partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority, as well as the Arizona Technology Council,” said David Hedberg, Senior Director of Technology and Field Solutions Delivery.

This kind of innovation will continue to strengthen Arizona’s already impressive IT talent pool, and help us close the workforce gap in key areas.

To learn more about the Greater Phoenix partnership, visit www.aspenwsi.org. This guest blog is a part of the CTWP series celebrating collaboration across seven U.S. communities.


Spotlight on Arizona - Communities that Work Partnership

The Communities that Work Partnership based in the Greater Phoenix region, led by the Arizona Commerce Authority, is focused on engaging and creating initiatives between business, education, and government to develop and retain its workforce in information technology (IT), an emerging driver of regional economic development.
Download Spotlight on Arizona - Communities that Work Partnership (19.11 MB)

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Last updated: 2016-12-09 11:07

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