People With Skills: They Really Move Us

Asphalt and track, sensors and signals – these are essential elements of what moves us, but they can never be enough on their own. We must have skilled people who plan, design, build, staff, and maintain these critical components of our everyday world.

According to National League of Cities statistics, municipalities own and maintain 55 percent of the nation’s road miles, 50 percent of bridges, and 95 percent of water infrastructure. To maintain these assets, we will need to increase our infrastructure workforce by an estimated 4.6 million workers by 2022 to keep pace with current hiring needs. Any investments in building and repairing our nation’s physical assets must include a trained workforce. Municipalities need strong partners at the state and federal levels to build employment pipelines as well as physical ones.

To create an even more prosperous future in the City of Tempe, Arizona, we have prioritized access to education and certificate programs for the long-term health of our homegrown economy. Our City Council set a goal in 2017 to see 65 percent of our workforce possessing a college degree or certificate by 2030, which is above and beyond the State of Arizona’s goal to achieve 60 percent in the same time period.

Whether high school students, college students, or mid-career individuals, we are encouraging the development of tomorrow’s professionals through paths that include both college and technical education. More and more people have discovered that success can come with a hard hat and a vest just as often as it can with a corner office and shareholders.

We have developed several successful programs to work toward the achievement of our goal, including support for young people to finish high school and move toward attending college or getting skills training and certificates. Programs like our College Connect Tempe and Career Ready Tempe are changing lives.

Our local community colleges offer robust selections of career and technical programs to help people build their skillsets and earn solid salaries that positively impact their families and our region. Maricopa Community Colleges, for example, offers programs in general construction, welding, carpentry, electrical services, plumbing, heavy equipment utilization and management, and energy systems technology.

Tempe also participates in Maricopa County’s ARIZONA@WORK program, a public-private partnership that offers apprenticeships and specialized training that connect employers and job seekers. They focus on jobs that are in high demand, like manufacturing, construction, and transportation, and have many success stories of people who have transformed their lives and companies that have advanced their objectives with the right talent.

Complementing these programs, Arizona State University (ASU) provides traditional degree programs in Construction Management and Architecture. What’s more, Tempe wants to be a Smart City and we have partnered with ASU and others to move purposefully toward a future that maximizes technology. This embrace will help us realize our workforce development goals.

Cities all over the country need to tell our state and federal legislators about our commitments, work, progress, and challenges related to workforce development – and that we cannot do it alone. We need any infrastructure investments to consider the professionals who make them happen.

Together, we can broaden the concept of infrastructure beyond concrete and realize a more stable future for ourselves and our families.

Robin Arredondo-Savage

Tempe City Councilmember Robin Arredondo-Savage has served on the Tempe City Council since 2010. She serves as Chair of the National League of Cities’ Human Development Federal Advocacy Committee.

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