Building an Educated Workforce

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Dr. Sybil Francis
Executive Director, Center for the Future of Arizona


When the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) was established in 2002, it was a time of dynamic change in Arizona. We knew that in order for Arizona to remain prosperous and a welcoming community, there would be a need for local research coupled with strong leadership that could create a vision for the state’s future.

CFA commissioned the Gallup Arizona Poll in 2009, which captured a realistic and contemporary picture of what citizens think about life in Arizona communities and what they want for the future. The poll provided us with a wide scope of state-specific information that we continue to update and utilize the data. The Gallup Arizona Poll is more than a snapshot in time, it helps us understand many of the beliefs and values shared by the people who live in the state. Some of our findings follow:

Consistently, since statehood, almost two-thirds of Arizonans were born elsewhere. National polling data shows that Arizona may look like the rest of the nation in terms of our aspirations and political views, but we don’t behave like the rest of the nation in our citizen participation. Those who live in Arizona are deeply connected to the state as a place to live, but don’t feel connected to one another. Often, Arizona ranks near the bottom when compared to other states, as it relates to voting, discussing politics and contacting public officials.

From a demographic standpoint, we also found that Arizonans are growing younger, older and more diverse. We have a large population of dependent children and older Arizonans. In fact, our demographics in terms of younger and older are greater than national averages. Latinos are also expected to become the majority population in Arizona in 2028 – just a little over a decade from now.

Economically, one in five Arizonans live in poverty. The per capita income of Arizonans has declined throughout the years. Over the past two decades, our per capita income has slipped to just over 80 percent of the national average. Arizona’s per capita income as a salary is $36,936.

The poll also found that Arizonans want our education system to prepare students for 21st century jobs and to be measured against international standards. This includes the assurance that all students are prepared to succeed academically beyond high school.

Arizona citizens are not as fully engaged as we must be if our goals are to be realized. Our civic participation rates are in the bottom quartile. There are many activities that we study to assess civic engagement. These include voting, volunteering, donating to charity, attending public meetings and others.

The central question before us when we originally took the poll and now remains the same: how can Arizona accelerate the rate at which it continues to bring economic prosperity to the people who live here? The primary answer becomes clear. In order to create the “Arizona We Want” we must have “The Education We Need.”

Based on our research, we found that Arizonans view educational quality at all levels as one of the most powerful forces for improving the economic prospects of individuals and communities across the state. It is clearer now more than ever that Arizona’s prosperity is inextricably tied to increasing the number of residents who hold a postsecondary degree or certificate.

The state must challenge assumptions about how we design and deliver education, and be open and flexible in our thinking. Arizona’s current educational attainment rate is just 42 percent. Ensuring that 60 percent of Arizona’s 25 years of age and older have a certificate or college degree by 2030 puts us on a path to prosperity – for Arizonans and for our state’s future workforce while helping us stay competitive with other states. The trend for higher education will continue as more industries demand specific skills and knowledge to compete effectively in a global and technology-based economy.



The Center for the Future of Arizona is helping define and shape Arizona’s future through an action-oriented agenda that focuses on issues critical to the state. CFA is proud to partner with more than 60 community, business, philanthropic and education organizations to form the Achieve60AZ alliance to support a goal of 60 percent of adults ages 25-64 with a professional certificate or college degree by 2030.


Over the past 30 years, Dr. Francis’ career as a public policy analyst/architect has spanned a number of policy areas including: science, technology, national security and education – and has been conducted in a variety of settings including educational institutions, public policy bodies and research laboratories. She was part of the founding team of CFA. A special focus for Dr. Francis within the Center’s agenda is bringing innovative solutions to Arizona’s education landscape.
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