Phoenix commerce leader says college-educated workers help lure businesses

Jan 7, 2022, 2:00 PM | Updated: 2:35 pm
(Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)
(Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – A Phoenix business leader said his organization is paying attention to the decreasing number of Arizona high school graduates who go on to college.

“One thing that’s going to be important for us is [with] all of these companies … coming in, we need to make sure we’re working with our K-12 system to ensure that kids are coming out college and career-ready,” Todd Sanders, CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Friday.

A recent study determined that metro Phoenix had the second-biggest increase in six-figure jobs in the country between 2015 and 2020 at 217%.

The report found metro Phoenix had a total employment of 180,740 in six-figure jobs in 2020, up from 57,000 in 2015, and representing 8.6% of total employment.

Metro Phoenix’s median annual wage across all occupations in 2020 was $41,300, according to the report.

“We have to make sure that we’re preparing kids at the K-12 level … and then getting them into our great state universities because we need that to compete,” Sanders said.

Sanders cited a fall report that showed 46% of Arizona high school graduates in 2020 enrolled in a two- or four-year college.

That number was 52% in 2019, according to the Arizona Board of Regents Postsecondary Attainment report.

Some of the slide could be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, but “That’s a pretty significant drop-off,” Sanders said, adding, “And we’re trailing the rest of the country in terms of bachelor degrees. The national average is 39%; we’re at 17%.”

Incoming and potential companies will be looking at that, Sanders said – it’s their future workforce.

The chamber will be keeping an eye on reports of the enrollment figures, too.

“That’s something that we’re going to focus on the next 5-10 years,” Sanders said.

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Phoenix commerce leader says college-educated workers help lure businesses