Tucson Metro Chamber and Center for the Future of Arizona Collaborate to Launch Workforce Initiative at Sunnyside Unified School District’s Middle Schools
After the launch of Tucson Metro Chamber’s Workforce Blueprint Initiative—a 5-part strategic plan created to enable a regional approach to the issues associated with the region’s workforce and the talent development ecosystem—Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) has made substantial progress in implementing the Greater Tucson Career Literacy Initiative strategy with the rollout of a comprehensive career exploration and action plan program at Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD).
In partnership with the Tucson Metro Chamber, CFA's Arizona Pathways to Prosperity (APTP) initiative began conversations with SUSD in October 2021 to pilot the Greater Tucson Career Literacy Initiative in SUSD’s middle schools. The collaborative program will launch in the fall of 2022 at all the middle schools in the district, and incorporates a robust career exploration curriculum, guided activities for students, and provides guidelines and materials for engagement with industry. Importantly, this program at SUSD will serve as a model for other school districts interested in bolstering career exploration for students.
Well-planned and supported career exploration curriculum enables students to gain awareness and exposure to a wide array of careers, develop employability skills, increase self-awareness and form their occupational identity, develop foundational skills, become positioned to make more informed educational choices and can transition to high school and postsecondary with an actionable plan to achieve their career goals.
With the partnership of LeadLocal, Arizona Business and Education Coalition (ABEC), The Pima County School Superintendent’s Office, CommunityShare, and The Sunnyside Foundation, CFA led and facilitated a multi-staged planning process with the district and middle school administrators to develop the district-wide career exploration plan. Tucson Metro Chamber industry members have committed to participate in the Initiative by engaging and introducing students to viable, rewarding career paths through speaking engagements and by supporting classroom projects. Going forward, CFA will convene all the partners monthly to identify ways to continue improving direct support for the school career exploration plans to empower students.
CFA’s Arizona Pathways to Prosperity (APTP) initiative has an extensive history of bringing industry and education together to create seamless college and career pathways that increase educational attainment, prepare young people for high-demand career fields, and meet state and regional talent needs. Career exploration starting at a young age is one critical element in setting students on pathways to long-term success. Yet most young people get little advice about education pathways to careers and possibilities; few families understand the current or future labor market; teachers typically have little interaction with contemporary high-growth industries and know little about labor market data and shifts in education and workforce needs. The effort at SUSD is an example of how schools and districts can fill these gaps through a systems-wide, cross-sector collaborative approach.
Tucson Metro Chamber’s Director of Workforce Initiatives, Frank Velásquez Jr. stated, “The goal of this initiative is to share the variety of career paths to Tucson’s southside middle schoolers giving them the opportunity to dream, plan, and achieve! Making these opportunities accessible is our local employer and educators’ responsibility. Through innovative collaboratives such as the Greater Tucson Career Literacy Initiative, we are collectively making it our responsibility.”
“We know it’s one thing to have great curriculum and resources. Beyond that, how students not only access but engage with the information is critical. Creating effective and sustainable career and college pathways requires helping students understand career exploration and why it is important, gain exposure to different careers in tangible ways, and then of course the conditions for all of that to be reinforced by informed parents, teachers, and other influences in the community,” said Aaron Ball, Ed.D., CFA Director of College & Career Pathways and member of the Tucson Chamber’s Blueprint Steering Committee. “It requires strategic, interconnected systems working together and that’s exactly what all of us partners are focused on. SUSD is a shining example of what is possible when an entire community works together to achieve shared goals.”
About the Tucson Metro Chamber
The Tucson Metro Chamber’s mission is to champion an environment where your business thrives, and our community prospers. The Chamber is a member-based business advocacy and community development organization that represents more than 1,500 businesses, employing more than 160,000 employees in the greater Tucson area.
About the Center for the Future of Arizona
Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings Arizonans together to create a stronger and brighter future for our state. We listen to Arizonans to learn what matters most to them, share trusted data about how Arizona is doing in those priority areas, bring critical issues to public attention, and work with communities and leaders to solve public problems. We work across the full spectrum of important issues areas and have deep and ongoing engagement in the areas of education, workforce development, and civic health, recognizing how essential these are to a bright and prosperous future for our state.
CFA’s Arizona Pathways to Prosperity (APTP) initiative increases college and career readiness and opportunities for upward economic mobility for young Arizonans while supporting state and regional talent needs. Learn more & get involved at arizonafuture.org/aptp.