Arizona Invests in Community College STEM in Workforce Development Push

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs announced $1.7 million in STEM funding for Pima Community College, reflecting the most recent move in a nationwide trend toward using two-year schools as drivers of high-demand workforce development.
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Published on July 14, 2023
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  • Community colleges are training students for the fast-growing electric vehicle industry.
  • Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs recently touted a $1.7 million STEM investment during a visit to Pima Community College, according to The Arizona Republic.
  • That investment went toward the college's Automotive Technology and Innovation Center, which includes programming to support electric and autonomous vehicles.
  • Community colleges are increasingly pivoting toward STEM to train students in high-demand, high-paying fields.

A community college in Arizona is set to get a major investment for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education — part of a larger nationwide trend in which community colleges are stepping up as key STEM workforce engines.

Democratic Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs touted a $1.7 million investment in STEM at Pima Community College in Tucson during a recent visit, The Arizona Republic reported. That funding went toward the college's Automotive Technology and Innovation Center, a 50,000-square-foot facility that will include programs to support diesel, electric, and even autonomous vehicles.

In visiting the facility, which originally opened in 2021, Hobbs said workforce development is key to attracting innovative new companies to the region.

If we have the workforce, we will continue to attract the companies, Hobbs said.

Arizona's investment in high-demand job training at community colleges is part of a national trend in which two-year schools have stepped up as key partners in workforce development.

Pima Community College's Centers of Excellence will continue to create a long-lasting generational impact for Pima County's students, families, community and future workforce, Roger Tadajewski, executive director of the National Coalition of Certification Centers, said in a press release when the facility opened.

Community colleges' dual role as community anchor institutions and accessible entryways into higher education mean they are uniquely positioned to adapt to new industries, and both employers and government officials have looked to two-year schools to train workers as rapidly growing industries outpace the supply of workers.

Automotive facilities like the one in Arizona are also key opportunities for community colleges and their students. Tesla and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) earlier this year announced a new Electric Vehicles Hub to help connect students with apprenticeships.

The demand for software developers, electric battery assemblers, battery engineers, and chemical engineers will soar and open up thousands of opportunities for manufacturing workers to upskill, Adrienne Summers, the AACC's executive director of apprenticeships, said at the time. The shift toward EV (electric vehicle) technology will also require a massive build-out of EV charging infrastructure, which will have a largely positive impact on the workforce.

Another community college to recently embrace the rapidly growing electric vehicle industry is Savannah Technical College in Georgia, which plans to offer a new electric vehicle certificate as part of Hyundai's nearby $5.54 billion electric vehicle and battery plant.

Electric vehicles aren't the only tech-heavy industry that community colleges are training workers for. In Ohio, for example, community colleges are working closely with Intel as the tech giant invests $20 billion in a massive semiconductor chip plant near Columbus.

No matter what industry and no matter what corner of the state, we are hearing from employers across the board that they need more people to graduate from community colleges, Ohio Association of Community Colleges President and CEO Jack Hershey previously told BestColleges.

High-demand workforce development at community colleges was evident nationwide in the form of congressional earmarks for 2023.

Austin Community College in Texas received $1,467,542 for cybersecurity training and equipment; Wake Technical Community College in North Carolina received nearly a million dollars for electric vehicle training; a $1 million earmark for the College of the Canyons in California went toward a robotics production lab.