Job training gaining momentum

Published: Jan. 29, 2014 at 10:23 PM MST
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Say the words "workforce development" and for most people, their eyes glaze over.

It sounds much like a boring policy issue that only a bureaucrat could love.

But to industry, including those in Pima County, workforce development can mean the difference between success and failure.

It can mean the difference between a thriving community and one that's struggling.

But for too many years, workforce development has been largely ignored.

But in recent months, Kino One Stop has been bringing government, business and education together to talk to one another, to find out how one can help the other.

"Every machine we have has a computer on it," says Don Theriault, President of ITCE, an engineering and tool company which employs 80 machinists. "Twenty years ago, we didn't have a machine with a computer on it."

But the problem is, workers in the Tucson are not trained to do those jobs, even though they can be well paid.

"We can't find electricians, we can't find machinists, we can't find engineers, we can't find IT people, technicians," laments Jim Mize, director of One Stop.

But President Obama has finally said what the people have been waiting for for years.

In his State of the Unions speech, Mr. Obama said we need to "train Americans with the skills employers need and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now."

Recent studies show manufacturing jobs returning to America but many have been gone so long, new people are not being trained to fill them.

25% of the machinists are ready to retire and filling those jobs has become a task, but a task One Stop is trying to solve.

It has two year retraining programs which are filling up.

Students at Tucson High School are once again gravitating to trades and machinists jobs.

It's machine shop has recently purchased a computerized lathe and drill machines the students can learn on.

There are now five teachers in the trades classes, and according to Ray Wiggins, "the number of students has doubled."

But getting the public sector to help pay for the necessary training has been difficult.

With the President finally stating the obvious, it's hoped they will turn the corner.

"If a person makes $9 an hour, it we can get them trained to make $15 and hour, that in and of itself is money well spend that comes back to the county and state in terms of taxes, purchasing power, a better life," says Mize.

And the more its talked about, the more it becomes acceptable.

"There's not many parents out there who want their child to be in manufacturing," says Theriault. "They want them to be doctors and lawyers but there are a lot of jobs in industry."