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West Valley Post-Secondary Educational Pipeline, Second to None

Author: Erin Thorburn, WESTMARC

Home to over 25 post-secondary schools, the West Valley maintains one of the most collaborative and unique workforce strategy pipelines in the nation.

Imagine living in a place where higher education opportunities are preparing students for careers that have yet to be invented. Now, picture a region with a workforce strategy pipeline that fosters educational and training opportunities for local lucrative occupations. Welcome to the West Valley. Here, innovation, forward-thinking and unique opportunities leap from imagination to application.

The West Valley is home to over 25 post-secondary schools. Collectively, these higher education outlets bolster an existing pool of talent in advanced business services, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, healthcare, information technology, supply chain management, and more.

The ASU West Campus offers 26 Advanced Business Services, 29 Advanced Manufacturing, 18 Aerospace, 50 Healthcare, 19 IT and 25 Logistics degree programs.

Similarly, EMCC students can obtain Electrical Systems, Mechanical Systems, and Mechatronics certificates, qualifying them for a number of local industrial and engineering job opportunities. Two IT Security Associate degrees offer additional career pathways in IT management, cyber-related professions, and more.

West-MEC has actually had to turn students away because seats have been filled to the max in their most popular degree programs: health and computer-based IT security and coding.

“Of GCU’s more than 230 academic programs, about 50 are in the areas of health care, cybersecurity and programming, engineering and advanced business services,” says Brian Mueller, president of Grand Canyon University.

Midwestern University, GCU and EMCC offer nursing degree programs.

“In nursing, there is an impending shortfall of one million nurses in the country. Yet universities turned away 75,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2018, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. To address that shortage, GCU has scaled its nursing programs and has the largest BSN and APRN nursing programs in Arizona,” Mueller adds.

These examples of abundant and convenient educational offerings are an undeniable added value to students within the 1.6 million population of West Valley residents. As for West Valley businesses—both existing and prospective—the benefits are tenfold.


“We are in a period of human history when tech is moving faster than it ever has,” says Dr. Todd Sandrin, dean of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and vice provost of the ASU West Campus. “A recent study reported that 65% of children (first graders) will have a job that doesn’t exist yet!”

Essentially, while local colleges, universities and C-TECs are continuing to feed skilled and talented graduates toward existing jobs, they are meeting the demands of teaching to an employment pool that is yet to be determined.

“To prepare leaders for tomorrow we must walk the walk and commit to our curriculum,” Sandrin explains. “In addition to a capstone class, we offer students the option to work with faculty. Our ASU faculty are required to be leaders in their field whether biotech, history, software development, coding, or other area.”

Sandrin also explains the increasing adoption of multidisciplinary learning. As an example, students and faculty in computer sciences and psychology teamed up to develop the “BullyBlocker” app. A major goal of the interdisciplinary project incorporated design, implementation and evaluation of automated cyberbullying identification tools for social networks.

Students at West-MEC experience a similar cross-pollination educational experience.

“I get asked often if we’re going to start a solar program,” says Greg Donovan, superintendent for West-Mec. “I respond that although there is no specifically designated ‘solar program,’ we have all the necessary components: mechanical, construction, welding, and electrician educational pathways. There is no degree in solar. Solar is a mathematical equation. There are however, many facets of solar, which is why we have multiple disciplines students can choose to pursue for a solar-oriented career.”

“Glendale Community College’s expansive Career and Technical Education program has succeeded in building a very strong student enrollment.  This means we know we are serving our students by providing courses that interest them while benefiting them long after they leave the classroom,” adds Teresa Leyba Ruiz, president of Glendale Community College. “At the same-time we are meeting the workforce needs of businesses in the west valley by providing well trained, highly skilled and strongly motivated future employees.”

It’s not simply the diverse degree programs, classes and innovative approaches of the West Valley’s EMCC, GCU, ASU West Campus, EMCC, West-MEC, and Midwestern University that add value to students, residents and businesses. It’s the collaborative efforts with one another, with local high schools, and the K-12 systems as well.

This is exactly what the WESTMARC West Valley Pipeline was designed for, and precisely why it works. And, it’s one of the only regional workforce strategies of its kind in the state and nation.

“WESTMARC has completed extensive research in the future economic development trends in the West Valley,” says Rey Rivera, president of Estrella Mountain Community College. EMCC is confidently aligned with the majority of these areas based on our manufacturing, cybersecurity, nursing, business and engineering programs. EMCC is a very collaborative community college and is intentionally working with K-12 and university partners to develop and design seamless pathways from high school to EMCC to university.”

“GCU launched a groundbreaking free tutoring and mentoring program called the Learning Lounge,” Mueller adds. “What started in 2013 as a public-private partnership between the university and nearby Alhambra High School, now reaches K-12 students at 150 schools in the Phoenix area. It has served more than 3,000 K-12 students with over 40,000 visits and over 100,000 hours of study.”

In addition to the tiered partnerships that K-12, secondary and post secondary schools share in the West Valley, there is a strong pipeline that extends to community businesses.

“PING Golf Factory came to us with manufacturing issues and a desire to work with our ASU students to identify methods of problem solving,” Sandrin says. “It was a win for both our West Valley students and for PING, who ended up hiring several ASU students.”

Students from the ASU West Campus also helped Banner Health to address pharmacy staffing problems by sending statistics students to compile and analyze data.

“EMCC partnered with GPEC and several key IT companies to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the college’s curriculum in the preparation of students to become cyber professionals,” says Rivera. “EMCC also hosts a Skilled Trades Expo every fall semester in  partnership with West-MEC, WESTMARC, and local industries to increase job awareness with our industry partners and local k-12 and community college students.”

Developed in coordination with the Arizona Insurance Council, premier insurance providers, GCC developed an award-winning program that prepares graduates to fill the growing need for employees in the insurance industry. The program is in its third year and continues to gain traction in the West Valley market.

The WESTMARC West Valley Pipeline Workforce Strategy Pipeline is living it’s best life. Because of the collaboration it encourages, the educational opportunities it yields and the businesses it attracts, the pipeline is allowing West Valley residents to live their best lives.

“The West Valley pipeline is creating a place where community members want to live, work and stay. We are a growing and prospering community,” Donovan says. “You don’t have a lot of students here who say, ‘I can hardly wait to get out of the West Valley.’ Having opportunities attracts students, businesses and keeps people here.”

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