Tucson Metro Chamber

The Tucson Metro Chamber is working with companies like Raytheon to connect veterans with employment opportunities.

With more than 25,000 employees, Tucson is eight times more concentrated in the aerospace industry as compared to other metropolitan areas in the country. Last year alone, the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base contributed an impact of $1.5 billion to the overall Tucson economy. 

To embrace this massive industry, the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce hosted its second aerospace and defense hiring event at Pima Community College on April 23. 

This second hiring event ran in conjunction with the Metro Chamber’s “Southern Arizona Veterans Workforce Initiative,” announced September 2018. The Workforce Initiative is a veteran-hiring collaboration between the Metro Chamber and Futures Inc., a tech company that recently developed a military-to-civilian jobs pipeline for Southern Arizona. 

“This is designed to test a different approach to connecting job-seekers to employers,” said Amber Smith, president and CEO of the Tucson Metro Chamber. 

These hiring events prove quite effective, according to the Metro Chamber. The first hiring event boasted a 68 percent hiring rate, including four veterans being offered jobs on the spot. This more recent event was smaller, with only 25 interviews, but held a similar hiring rate of 66 percent. Employers even offered jobs to six attendees on the spot. 

The jobs pipeline combines military occupation codes with civilians’ skills and certifications, also including factors like security clearances and military work experience. The site then matches the veteran or reserve member to jobs aligning to their expertise.

Large employers at the hiring event included Caterpillar, Tucson Electric Power, Ascent Aviation Services and Aerotek, an affiliate of Bombardier. 

Following the second hiring event, the Metro Chamber hosted an “Aerospace and Defense Workforce Innovation Summit” on April 25, where 11 industry speakers discussed Arizona’s workforce needs. The speakers included Smith, as well as Carol Stewart, Associate Vice President for Tech Parks Arizona; Allen Reid, VP of Human Resources for Raytheon Missile Systems; Trevor Stokes from the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity; and Pima Community College Vice-Chancellor David Dore.

Many of the speakers discussed the need for earlier career outreach to students. According to the Metro Chamber, earlier guidance would lead to increased high school graduation rates, and a smoother transition into earning certifications and degrees. To help with this goal, the Metro Chamber is working to develop a “process to address current and future workforce gaps to satisfy industry needs.”

According to Smith, the Metro Chamber will host more of these hiring events “based on demand from the industry.” While aerospace and defense hiring is proving successful, the Metro Chamber is also looking to other large Tucson industries, such as healthcare, construction and hospitality. 

“We all agree we need to be better at matching talent to positions,” Smith said. “We also need to build career pathways from schools, even toward industries we might not know exist.” 

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