High Demand For Skilled Labor Turns Focus To Non-College Education Options

High Demand For Skilled Labor Turns Focus To Non-College Education Options

By Terri Jo Neff |

In the last year, Arizona has added nearly 15,000 manufacturing jobs. But the demand for skilled workers to fill those jobs along with thousands of others across the state which require specialized training is drawing attention to the importance of ensuring students have access to trade or vocational schools.

The Imagine America Foundation (IAF) is focused on promoting the value of specialized career education and helping students get the hands-on training they need. One category the IAF concentrates on is the skilled trades, which includes a variety of occupations running the gamut from production, installation, maintenance, and repair.

“Because the world runs on machines and energy, those able to service them will always be in demand,” according to a recent IAF report titled Pandemic-Proof Careers in Skilled Trades. “Through economic downturns, pandemics, or other natural disasters, keeping these pieces moving will always be crucial to keeping society moving.”

The growth in demand for skilled trade jobs across Arizona is being powered by emerging technologies, a concerted effort by Gov. Doug Ducey to attract certain industries, and an aging workforce set to retire in the next few years.

“For young people deciding on a career or those looking to make a career change that better aligns with the stability, demand, flexibility, and ROI they seek, this growth comes at the perfect time,” the IAF report notes.

IAE recently highlighted several “hot emerging skilled trades” which can offer a more pandemic-proof career. Those jobs include:

  • Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanic / technician
  • Electrician
  • Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanic / installer
  • Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technician
  • Industrial machinery mechanic, machinery maintenance, or millwright
  • Machinist or tool and die maker
  • Medical equipment repairer
  • Solar photovoltaic installer
  • Welder
  • Wind turbine service technician

Scholarships and other tuition assistance for vocational and trade schools has also become more common in the last few years, with the Arizona Community Foundation leading the way away from a college-only mindset.

That example is now being followed by one of Cochise County’s largest employers, which has created a new scholarship for high school seniors interested in obtaining the training needed for a skilled trade job.

The program announced last month by Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative (SSVEC) Foundation will award $4,000 to five students who plan to attend a trade school, skilled job training program, or apprentice program in 2023 instead of seeking a traditional higher education degree.

“Our Directors recognized the importance of encouraging, and providing resources, to students who plan to attend a trade school or certified program rather than a degree from a college or university,” said Marcus Harston, SSVEC’s Community Relations Manager.

More information on the SSVEC Foundation Trade Scholarship Program is available here.

Some companies across Arizona are getting even more involved in training the new employees they need. Several, including Boeing and Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., are now working directly with educational institutions to ensure a quality workforce.

For instance, Gulfstream has partnered with Arizona State University and Chandler-Gilbert Community College to turn out maintenance specialists for the company’s fleet of luxury jets.

In addition, the Governor’s Office recently featured Prescott-based CP Technologies which has joined forces with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Yavapai College to train and hire upwards of 200 employees.

Another example is battery manufacturer KORE Power, which is working with Rio Salado College and West-MEC to facilitate training for the advanced manufacturing workers needed at the company’s Buckeye facility.

And Boeing has partnered with Mesa Community College to offer a boot camp for students interested in various electrical wiring technician jobs. Since 2019, more than 350 students have graduated from the boot camp with over 200 getting hired at Boeing, according to the Governor’s Office.

Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.