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Thu, Feb. 21
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Editorial: The ‘dream’ has changed

According to figures released from the Arizona Department of Administration, the largest chunk of jobs being created in the next two years won’t even require a high school diploma.

As we report in our front page story today, the biggest job growth came in bars, restaurants and hotels with 7,300 new jobs added between February and March.

“When you look at some of the specific job recruitments that the governor has been involved in, they are in fact ones that are very good paying jobs and that are high-skilled jobs,’’ said Daniel Scarpinato, press aide to Ducey. But Scarpinato said it takes more than that to make an economy.

“The governor has been very clear that all jobs matter, all jobs have value, and all citizens, no matter their educational background, deserve a shot at the American dream,’’ he said. “And so we’re going to be working on things that grow jobs across all sectors for all individuals in our state, not just the wealthy and not just people with a college education.’’

It’ll be interesting to see what those “things” are, considering how little money Arizona tends to invest in the future … of education or anything else.

The American dream began as the ideal that every citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination and initiative.

Nationally, states are raising minimum wages so all workers have a chance to be successful. However, with rents soaring, food costs rising, property values escalating and health insurance rates shooting off the charts, how does anyone make a “livable” living nowadays … even with a few more dollars an hour?

The pinnacle of the dream used to be home ownership, but lately it’s been just making enough money to pay your rent and utilities, afford a car and get groceries.

According to Alexandra Wright, director of the Yavapai College Regional Economic Development Center, “An economy is driven by the community within which it rests, wage scales should match value produced and service sector jobs will always increase at a faster rate than professional occupations; but an economy can be stimulated by innovation and an entrepreneurial culture that is fostered by the local region. So let us not dismiss the value of education and a creative spirit so quickly, there are multiple variables at play and investment in human capital will undoubtedly produce a large return for our local economies in the end.”

It’s true that we can invest in education and guide our teens to careers through either more education or thinking “outside the box” in an entrepreneurial vein.

However, Arizona has to step up, and catch up, in salary offerings to attract companies and educated workers, as well as keep our next generation here, working and thriving in Yavapai County.

Lee McPheters of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, said there’s another big factor at work that is making the Arizona economy less dependent on jobs where a higher education is required: Money, or, more specifically, the lack of it. He said someone who graduates with a degree in engineering probably can find a job in Arizona. But McPheters said companies elsewhere offer more. He’s not talking places like San Francisco where the cost of living is higher. He said entry-level programming jobs pay more in Austin, Denver and Salt Lake City.

That, in turn, leads to the situation where Arizona employers claim they can’t find enough qualified help.

“Probably, they need to finish that statement by saying there’s a shortage of qualified skilled labor at the prevailing wage rates here,’’ he said.

The City of Prescott has recognized this issue and is trying to raise salaries for professional positions. Unfortunately, it’s at a time when the city is grappling with all sorts of other financial issues. The thinking is right, the timing is not.

A man once commented to me that not all people need to go to college. He’s right. For some of us, it’s not the right path. As the governor says, all jobs have value, as do all people, regardless of their educational background.

All economies need to have all levels of jobs represented in order to be fruitful.

We need a good balance of all jobs here, but we also need everyone in those jobs to be able to pay bills, eat properly, visit a doctor and all the other things an American dream should offer.


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