During Summer 2009, the Coconino County Sustainable Economic Development Initiative commissioned NAU’s Center for Business Outreach to conduct a Demand Study of the need for a Northern Arizona Workforce Training Center (NAWTC) in the five-county region that includes Apache, Coconino, Mohave, Navajo and northern Yavapai County or the Verde Valley.
Read the Executive Summary
Click here to read the Final Report
Today, businesses and organizations rely mostly on area community colleges and in-house training programs for their training needs. The major benefits of a NAWTC would be to: provide a greater pool of qualified applicants; increase productivity of area businesses; decrease training time; and, increase employee efficiency.
Two groups were surveyed to establish demand – Opinion Leaders and Business Leaders throughout this region.
The Opinion sample represented City and County officials, Chambers of Commerce leaders, leaders of area non-profits, educational institutions, and Native American tribes – leaders whose support would be critical to successful implementation of a NAWTC.
More than three-fourths of Opinion Leaders said it was difficult today for businesses and organizations in their area to hire the skilled employees they need. Recruitment and retention problems were mostly due to the region’s lower wages, few possibilities for advancement, and inadequate benefits – problems that tend to be “regional” rather than “industry-wide.”
Opinion Leaders’ interest in establishing a NAWTC was very high (83% were for the idea, only 17% opposed), and their support for establishing a NAWTC was overwhelming – 89% favored the idea. They also believe that area businesses and organizations would send their employees to a NAWTC – 86% responded in the affirmative, 14% in the negative.
The Business sample represented a cross-section of regional businesses, weighted toward larger businesses and those that employ skilled workers. Business respondents completed a longer more detailed survey, providing data that will inform the Business Plan (to be created as a separate document by the Center for Business Outreach at NAU).
A majority of business respondents said that the recruitment and retention of skilled workers is largely a regional issue, and a majority has experienced recruitment problems, especially in manufacturing, machining and technical skills; more than 90% said it would be increasingly difficult to hire skilled employees in the future. Top skill deficiency areas included: information analysis and application, thinking critically-acting logically, followed by dependability-work ethic, math skills, and using tools and technology – though all of these were considered to be only moderate, not extreme, deficiencies. The technical skills most lacking were in: computer literacy, electrical, maintenance and troubleshooting. Almost all respondents were desirous that Certificates of Achievement be issued to those who complete NAWTC programs.
The most important current obstacles to employee training are: the low number of applicants with required skills (52%), lack of work experience needed by businesses (36%), remoteness of the workplace (33%), and lack of qualifications needed by business or organization (28.8%).
Overall, it is apparent that both Opinion leaders and Businesses and organizations in the five-county region see a clear and unmet need and demand for the skilled training that could be provided at a NAWTC. Their use and support of such a center are conditional, and are particularly dependent on the kinds of training programs offered, the equipment provided, training schedules and cost. However, if a Northern Arizona Workforce Training Center incorporated the desired attributes, businesses and organizations would send their employees to the center for training, and would help defray the costs of tuition and transportation, and to a lesser extent temporary housing costs.