House Bill 2657, the Technology and Innovation Workforce Fund, was recently introduced in the state legislature to create new job opportunities in the technology industry throughout the state.
Sponsored by state Representative Jeff Weninger, the bill will establish both a Technology and Innovation Workforce Fund and Program. Through the Fund, the Arizona Commerce Authority can distribute grants to providers that will either create or enhance job training programs in the state. The bill also allows the Program to issue grants to qualifying providers that provide workforce development and support career/technical education programs and courses.
So, who receives the grants? The bill defines a “qualifying provider” as a community college, private postsecondary technical college, or employer-based training program that provides job training and education for high-needs, competitive wage industries. In short, H.B. 2657 will enhance education programs in colleges and training organizations across the state.
Arizona Chamber Foundation Director of Research and Policy Becky Hill explains that this bill is crucial in a time when our economy is flourishing:
“The primary purpose of the bill is to try and put some support behind workforce development. Arizona is going very quickly and we’re expanding economically very quickly. We have new businesses coming in, and incumbent companies are growing as well. It’s creating a very big need for skilled workers. We see this across the country, but it’s particularly acute here in AZ.”
As the unemployment rate decreases, this Program will become increasingly important. Hill points out that over seven thousand jobs are unfilled in just the four largest manufacturing firms. On the IT side, eight thousand are unfilled, and this number is only expected to increase over the next ten years. Other areas that need job attention include general business management, technology, and financial services.
Representative Weninger, the sponsor of H.B. 2657, expressed to Chamber Business News the importance of this bill.
“As we move into a more technology-driven workforce, we need to make sure that our education programs keep pace with industry needs,” Rep. Weninger said. “Our efforts to attract and retain great, high-tech companies will be supplemented by a highly qualified workforce. The workforce development will allow our community colleges to prepare students for the jobs that new and growing companies will demand, and flexibility to adapt to innovation and new technology needs.”
H.B. 2657 is awaiting a full vote by the Arizona House of Representatives.