“You need to have the best possible people available.”
That was a tip for business success Gov. Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.) gave the audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management National Conference on March 23.
He would know.
Before going into public service, Ducey was CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, growing it to more than 1,400 locations worldwide. “I don’t believe Cold Stone was successful by chance,” Gov. Ducey said in his talk at the U.S. Chamber. “We were successful because of the people we employed.”
Gov. Ducey, who was elected in 2014, has made education and workforce development one of his priorities.
Above the Fold had a chance to speak with Gov. Ducey after his speech.
Above the Fold: In your talk, you mentioned you started your own business--Coldstone Creamery. One of the important points for success is finding the right people. We have a skills gap affecting businesses across the country, and it makes it hard to hire workers with the right skills for the job. What sectors in Arizona are affected by the skills gap?
Gov. Ducey: We're seeing it across the board. We see it in technology and manufacturing. But you could sit here with any small business, entrepreneur, or large company and they would talk about positions that they want to fill and are having a tough time finding individuals qualified or with the proper education or training to get that done.
I think part of this is incumbent on the employers to communicate properly as to what they need and how we can help them--building relationships with organizations like the Chamber. And then with government leaders in terms of career and technical education, the foundational education that we have in K-12, and what we're able to provide in post-secondary.
ATF: Part of the way to get businesses, organizations, and institutions on board is Talent Pipeline Management. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce Foundation is using those principles to get these coalitions of businesses together to find common workforce needs. How will that support your vision of economic development in Arizona?
Ducey: What we want to see is opportunity for all. So it's not only our existing businesses succeeding, it's the businesses that have not yet started or have come to market. That's an idea that everyone that wants a job can find a job, but also a dynamic, growing economy has a virtuous cycle of not only businesses that are succeeding, but a workforce that's prepared and ready at the completion of 12 years of school, if that's the direction someone wants to do. That they would have a skill and ability to go into that workforce, or if they want to go on to a university, or further training in the career and technical field, or community college.
So it's that collaboration, really, between the need and the demand and our supply of talented young people that can find a fulfilling career and also have the skills to change and adapt as there are new ideas and new industries.
ATF: Talk about anything your administration is doing to get workers focused on new work opportunities.
Ducey: There are a number of things. First and foremost is our focus on K-12 education. This idea that after 12 years inside a classroom we expect they should have the skills and the abilities to be part of this workforce or to have the options to go onto college. We have an injection of $3.5 billion in additional dollars into K-12. Arizona will be a leading state in the nation in terms of new investment, and we've been able to do all of this without raising taxes. All of it will go into the baseline formula, which is the quickest way to get it to the classrooms and the teachers and the local principals who really have the knowledge of what the needs are at the local level to make the highest-possible impact.
In addition to that, we're making a $28 million investment in career and technical education, so kids that make a decision not to go on to college will have different options. Career and technical education is embedded in our workforce development, collaborating with employers on their needs. All of that, in addition to our community colleges and our focus on changing the trend line in university investment.
ATF: Why is it important for employers to play a leadership role when partnering with education and workforce training programs in Arizona?
Ducey: Well, in addition to it being the right thing, it's also in their best interest. Any business that is having success is traditionally growing and in need of new talent and young talent. So understanding what those needs are and how we can adjust, whether that's adding curriculum or adding more flexible time in an apprenticeship or internship-type situation, is especially-important in the formative years of high school.
ATF: Why is the business community a valuable partner when looking for ways to improve the education system in your state?
Ducey: Arizona is a growing state--70% of our population came from elsewhere in the country--so there is still that ability to shape and develop our K-12 system. Our university system, I mention leaders like [Arizona State University President] Michael Crow who are getting incredible results at the university level--most-innovative university in the country; highest producer of Fullbright Scholars; a rather new honors college, in the Barrett Honors College, being the gold standard, the equivalent to an Ivy League education, affordable and accessible to every child in our state.
Those are all the results of leaders in the education and business community stepping up and saying this is how to have a higher quality of life, a higher standard of living in Arizona, and that's a theme that we want to drive from what the government can do and also how the government can be a better partner with business by getting out of their way and allowing them to have greater success.