A quality workforce, job training, and workforce development are some of the leading priorities of the members of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (THCC). But it all starts with quality education from an early age. The annual THCC State of Hispanic Education
luncheon hosted on April 20th served as an opportunity to explore some of the education challenges facing southern Arizona and to address the role the Hispanic business community plays in improving education across our region.
“Our economic growth and the success of our business community depends on the availability of highly-skilled and trained workers capable of innovating and fulfilling productivity demands,” said Lea Marquez Peterson, President and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “At the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, we analyze and discuss the challenges facing Hispanic students in the Tucson area and Arizona, and actively engage in initiatives and programs that improve education standards and prepare students for college or to enter the workforce.”
Less than fifty percent of Arizona's high school graduates are college or career ready. For southern Arizona Hispanics, the dropout rate continues to be a disappointing figure, despite a recent decline. In Pima County, the dropout rate among Latino students is 4.9 percent – well above the state average of 3.5 percent.
However, there are encouraging statistics in Latino higher education that will lead to a positive effect on the development of Southern Arizona’s workforce. Santa Cruz and Cochise Counties have done a remarkable job in reducing the dropout rates for their Hispanic students, to levels that are lower than the national average. According to Scarborough, more than 35,000 Santa Cruz and Cochise students plan to seek higher education over the next twelve months. In addition, according to the THCC’s Hispanic Market Outlook report, nearly half of all Hispanics in the Tucson area have enrolled in some college courses, and those 18 years of age and older are more likely than the general population to plan to go back to school over the next twelve months.
THCC luncheon panelist and business owner, Carlos Ruiz said “Investing in education is investing in the future of our workforce.” Ruiz, a small business owner and the President of the Board of the Tanque Verde School District, has focused on connecting education administration officials to the business community and policymakers. “Engaging the business community is crucial to understanding the needs of the labor market and preparing students to enter careers in those areas. They also have the potential to serve as mentors and role models, which is of particular importance among Hispanics.”
Tucson Hispanic Chamber members focus on education initiatives in a number of ways. The chamber’s Latino Education Committee meets monthly to discuss Latino student enrollment levels, high school and college graduation rates, and keeps abreast of important legislative issues. The THCC is also proud to spearhead the A for Arizona Initiative in conjunction with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The initiative is an effort to increase the number of public schools providing quality education to low income families throughout the state. The chamber also launched a Young Entrepreneur Academy which educates students age 11 – 18 on launching their own business in partnership with Tucson Unified School District and the University of Arizona Eller Business School. Learn more about business engagement in education initiatives at www.TucsonHispanicChamber.org.
by Lea Marquez Peterson
Tucson Hispanic Chamber
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Our goal is to help member companies grow and prosper. We work to achieve this goal by advocating a pro-business agenda in Tucson and connecting members with business leaders and policy makers. How? With Networking & educational events, and online initiatives — like this blog.