Investing in tomorrow’s workforce: company commits amid labor shortage

Raytheon celebrates 70 years in Tucson
KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 7:00 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -

As Yaritza Durazo describes her research of Chaos theory, it’s hard hard to believe there was a time when she didn’t think science was for her.

“Before, I used to think I could not be a scientist,” Durazo said.

Now, she’s set to present her findings at an international fair in Atlanta this May. It’s thanks to Southern Arizona Research, Science, and Engineering Foundation (SARSEF).

”It made me fall in love with science,” she said.

SARSEF gets support from Raytheon, in Tucson. It’s a partnership creating the next generation of critical thinkers and STEM workers in Southern Arizona.

”Getting people interested in science in one thing, but supporting them in their journey, that’s the most important thing,” said Durazo. ”I like how I’ve created a path for myself and I hope that one day I can help others on that same path.”

A senior at Sunnyside High, Durazo probably would not have had this University of Arizona research opportunity without a scholarship. Now, she’s positioned to light up tomorrow’s workforce. That link is not lost on a legacy company like Raytheon, and reinforcing the connection is Lexi Hernandez’ specialty.

“We do a lot of investing in the community to grow that strong local talent pipeline,” said Hernandez, Raytheon’s senior director of talent development, diversity, equity, and inclusion

”Our workforce, we see them as our main technological advantage - they’re helping us with those technology shifts,” Hernandez said.

During this historic labor shortage, drawing and keeping employees is critical. Young people with fresh outlooks see what’s possible when they see people who look like them succeeding.

“By bringing along our current workforce that’s already really diverse, it really spotlights that if you can see it, you can be it.” said Hernandez. “We want to be around for another 70 years, so we’re focused on the development of the future generation”

This new era of hiring is about building relationships, not just careers. It demands flexibility and a renewed focus on underrepresented groups.

In Southern Arizona, that looks like millions of dollars and hundreds of Raytheon volunteers. spread across dozens of organizations, such as SARSEF.

”Every time you try something a door opens to something new you could consider in your life.” Said Julie Euber, SARSEF CEO.

That’s what happened for Jerry Barela. The Catalina Foothills senior wasn’t sold on microbiology, until he got into Star Lab at U of A. Now, he works with scientists around the country, learning about lizards and fungus.

”At school, you really just learn about the process. You really don’t get the experience of how to conduct your own research and make your own discoveries,” said Barela. “I find it very rewarding because you’re able to start with your own questions, go on to so many more than you thought possible, and guide others down the path and see what they discover on their own.”

When the path leads to a career, companies win...but so does the community.

“Really, the sky’s the limit with this whole thing,” Barela said. “I’ll just see where the road goes.”

Raytheon offers a large variety of scholarships and internships for STEM students, as well as programs for people who have taken a career break.

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