How Community Colleges and High Schools Prepare Students for the Workforce

Higher education in Arizona will become more accessible in 2023 after the passage of a recent bill that now allows community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees, a change that “will benefit the community as a whole,” according to Matt Hasson from the Maricopa Community Colleges District Office (MCCD) responsible for communications.

When Senate Bill 1453 (SB 1453), sponsored by Republican Senator Paul Boyer, was enacted in May 2021, Arizona became the 24e The state allowed two-year community colleges to offer four-year degree programs, a feat that lasted a long time, according to Hasson.

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“We’ve been looking at this for about 25 years, so this is pretty historic legislation, and it’s very, very big news and very historic news for our community,” Hasson said.

Hasson explained that plans for bachelor’s degrees were already in the works and community college officials began drafting proposals as soon as the bill was passed.

“It was a lot of celebrations that immediately turned into work,” Hasson said. “The moment this was adopted, we immediately launched a team of experts who will begin to do the groundwork to help select the programs that we will be offering up front. “

MCCD is the largest community college district in the state, hosting 10 colleges in the Phoenix area. In a recent press release, MCCD has released its first round of bachelor’s degrees which are currently awaiting approval from the Commission on Higher Education and the Board of Trustees of Maricopa Community Colleges.

The four-year degrees offered by Maricopa Community Colleges include:

• Bachelor of Applied Sciences, Programming and Data Analysis: Mesa Community College.

• BAS, IT: Estrella Mountain Community College, Phoenix College.

• BAS, public security administration: Phoenix College, Rio Salado College.

• BAS, nuclear medicine technology and computed tomography: GateWay Community College.

• Bachelor of Science, Behavioral Health Sciences: South Mountain Community College.

• Bachelor of Arts, Early Childhood Education-Dual Language: Mesa Community College.

• BA, Education, double certification in primary / special education: Glendale Community College, Paradise Valley Community College, Rio Salado College.

Hasson explained the outlines of these programs and the choice of the programs themselves required a “great collaborative effort at all levels”, as the MCCD worked closely with the Commission on Higher Education and the Colleges of Canada. MCCD to develop a study program in line with the degree requirements in SB. 1453.

The law requires four-year degree programs to present “evidence of market demand” and offer material not available at state universities in an effort to meet workforce needs in Phoenix, according to the legislation. Students will study subjects that prepare them for industries needing more workers, and state universities will not suffer, as the subject matter of these degrees will be specialized to meet the needs of the community, Hasson said.

“We want to have an impact on the community,” Hasson said. “We are looking to find out which high-demand occupations are emerging? There is a benefit to the community with these jobs because we need more experts in these areas.

Some Phoenix high schools have similar systems in place to prepare students for the Phoenix workforce that will work with MCCD to ensure students have a smooth transition from high school to college.

ElevateEdAZ is a state program that allows students to begin earning college credit and work experience in programs designed to meet the demands of the workforce in Phoenix.

“Our mission is to better prepare Arizona students for college and careers, and we have a very strong relationship with the business world… being connected to the great Phoenix chamber,” said Brittany Holmes, director of ElevateEdAZ. “We want to make sure that students have multiple options, whether they are entering the job market directly or entering higher education. “

As the ElevateEd programs and the four-year degree programs are formed around industry demand, both programs end up teaching material from similar industries. Holmes explained that ElevateEdAZ worked with local community colleges to better align their programs.

“Phoenix Union High School, for example, is doing a lot of work right now to determine how the programs… match up with the nearest community colleges,” Holmes said. “Making sure there is a connection between high school and how these students are progressing and entering community college is huge. “

Holmes and Hasson both highlighted the positive impact that workforce-centered learning will have on the community.

“It’s kind of a win-win where companies have a huge gap with the workforce… and our education system needs more support,” Holmes said.

“Ultimately, the more our neighbors, friends and family have access to higher education, the better it is for our community,” said Hasson. “We are proud to be a part of it.

About Jefferey G. Cannon

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