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Ethan Orr: My vision for Pima Community College
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Ethan Orr: My vision for Pima Community College

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The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Pima Community College is crucial to our region in terms of workforce development, economic development and community development. Having been a leader in all three areas in Southern Arizona for over 24 years, I understand the interplay between the three and the vital role that PCC plays.

A well-trained workforce is one of the keys to business recruitment and expansion. Successful businesses expand our regional tax base and create employment opportunities for individuals. Increased employment and revenue allows our community to invest into itself, expanding the arts and culture, creating revenue for better parks and roads, further improving our education opportunities and thus creating a virtuous cycle of community improvement and increased opportunity.

Having both recruited new businesses to Tucson and helped local businesses expand, I know firsthand that the key to economic development is a strong, flexible workforce. One of reasons workers can earn more in Silicon Valley is because of the availability of jobs, what HR managers call “market thickness.” This recruits and rewards talent in the region, continuing the virtuous cycle of job growth and economic opportunity.

Pima Community College is the heart of training the workforce of the future and ensuring opportunity for Tucson’s workers and families.

I envision two tracks of success for students at Pima Community College. The first would focus on career and technology; by partnering with local business, Pima can give students the exact skills needed to be employable and successful. This includes industry certifications that can be combined or stacked into an associate degree. There are over 25,000 open jobs in Southern Arizona in the construction, automotive and health trades; our businesses need skilled workers.

The second track involves creating seamless pathways for students to move to the University of Arizona and complete a bachelor’s degree. These dual-enrollment programs offer our students an affordable path to a four-year degree. I work at the University of Arizona and have helped create pathways for transfer students to succeed and thrive at the UA. In order for these programs to work for everyone, we need to increase the number of academic advisors, involve Pima students in UA lab work and campus activities and facilitate stronger communication between faculty at Pima and the UA.

We also need to partner with our local high schools, employment centers, adult education centers, disengaged communities and families to promote the value of Pima Community College by expanding the opportunity to earn college credit and certificates while in high school.

Additionally, we could offer more dual enrollment options that enable adults to complete a GED concurrently with CTE credit programs. This expands the economic opportunity and job viability for many more people in southern Arizona. By aligning educational coursework with existing and emerging employment needs, Arizona can create over $7.6 billion in economic growth (Achieve 60).

The COVID-19 pandemic and loss of almost a third of our GDP has devastated people in our community. Pima Community College must be on the forefront of restoring economic vitality and opportunity to those hardest hit with retaining and job placement programs. We also need to work with the small business center to assist local business owners in gaining access to loan, tax deferment and economic incentive programs.

Pima Community College can change our economy, and it can change lives. For over 10 years I was the executive director of Linkages, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people with disabilities find meaningful employment. We saw thousands of lives transformed by employment and the dignity of purposeful work.

Pima Community College can educate, equip and help these students to succeed. With better financial aid counseling and partnering with organizations such as Earn to Learn, Pima Community College can became a gateway to hope for people in Pima County.

By investing in Pima Community College, we invest in ourselves. I am running for the governing board because I know that with the right leadership Pima Community College will continue to transform lives and be a catalyst for opportunity in our community.

Ethan Orr has been a student and a faculty member at PCC and is a candidate for the PCC Board of Governors in District 1.

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