TPM: Addressing the Rural Workforce Crisis

According to federal statistics, Arizona’s job growth rates are flourishing - ranking our state as having the fourth fastest growing economy in the country. The Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity has supported these findings with projections of continued prosperity through 2020. Yet, in taking a closer look at the numbers, we realize the data gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the US Census Bureau is dangerously skewed by the growth of metro Maricopa County; overlooking the dire reality of rural Arizona.

The Problem(s)

The infographic below further illustrates the disparity. While officials continue to tout Arizona’s #2 ranking for U.S. job growth, we see that the Maricopa County accounts for 84.7% of that expansion; contrasting sharply with rural Arizona’s much bleaker reality. Furthermore, Arizona’s reported Gross Domestic Product for 2017 estimates rural contribution - with the exception of Prescott and Yuma - to be only 12%. These skewed perceptions of workforce prosperity threaten the proper legislative and budgetary attention needed to successfully address the issue state-wide.

Rural Workforce Infographic

Diving deeper into the state of workforce development in our rural communities, we learn that a projected tens of thousands of hospitality, construction, and healthcare jobs remain open in each county. On one hand, there simply are not enough people to meet the demands of the growing needs. On the other, those being trained for the positions lack the necessary skills industry employers require. In fact, 98% of colleges nation-wide believe they are producing a skilled workforce, while only 11% of business leaders agree.

The problem is systemic - impacted by the depletion of young skilled workers post-recession, influx of retirees to rural communities, lack of affordable housing, and our challenged public education system that deter young families from committing to rural communities.

A Solution?

Specifically addressing the trend of the disconnect between education systems and employers looking for a skilled workforce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has been creating a nationally-vetted program to provide a strategic alignment between classroom and career.

TPM Value Stream Map.png

Developed over the past six years, Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) is a uniquely employer-led approach to workforce development. Industry leaders collaborate to analyze data, standardize competencies, and better communicate with talent providers and partners to enhance their talent pipelines and address other workforce challenges specific to their region.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce approached the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce to establish the first TPM cohort in Arizona. Liza Noland, Director of Rural Programs for the Arizona Rural Development Council jumped on the opportunity to enroll in the Talent Pipeline Academy with the vision of taking the program beyond Maricopa and implementing this vetted approach throughout rural Arizona.

In our work in Rural AZ, we continue to see a disconnect between employers and educators. This is resulting in a “No Workers vs. No Jobs” disparity that is inaccurate and holistically problematic for rural development. My hope is that TPM® may be a part of the solution.
— Liza Noland, Arizona Rural Development Council's Director of Rural Programs

It is true that our rural workforce disparity will not improve without simultaneous attention to public education, community engagement, and affordable housing - but TPM can help significantly move the needle.

The Pilot – Yavapai County

On Monday, September 30th, the Verde Valley hosted the first ever Rural TPM Orientation in Cottonwood. The meeting convened representation from twelve prominent industry leaders, including The Haunted Group, Spectrum Healthcare, Northern AZ Healthcare, Lawler Construction, Tierra Verde Builders, Days Inn, Rainbow Acres, Yavapai College, City of Cottonwood, the Town of Clarkdale and the Town of Camp Verde.

Jaimie Francis, U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Senior Director of Programs and Policy, flew in from Washington D.C. to join the group in Cottonwood, presenting the TPM framework and its results across the country, stressing the importance of gathering accurate regional data to refute state and nationally-compiled numbers about the state of workforce demands.

Pictured: Liza Noland (Arizona Rural Development Council); Ron Corbin (City of Cottonwood); Jaimie Francis (U.S. Chamber of Commerce) Sebra Choe (Town of Camp Verde)

Pictured: Liza Noland (Arizona Rural Development Council); Ron Corbin (City of Cottonwood); Jaimie Francis (U.S. Chamber of Commerce) Sebra Choe (Town of Camp Verde)

To implement the TPM framework, industry leaders will have to sit down with one another - often their competition - to determine mutual pain points in staffing and upskilling. From there, the Collaborative will gather accurate workforce data, draft standardized job descriptions and identify talent providers that can meet the needs identified throughout the guided process. A shared language between employers will allow for stronger partnerships with training and education partners, making positive return on investment much more likely.

Monday’s orientation was just the first step in a long-term approach to strengthening the Hospitality, Construction, and Healthcare talent pipelines in the Verde Valley. Now a graduate of the TPM Academy, Noland and the AZ Rural Development Council will be convening industry-specific focus groups to facilitate the first of six stages of the framework - forming industry collaboratives.

If your business is an industry leader in Yavapai County in the Construction, Hospitality or Healthcare industries or if your region/County has an interest in TPM Workforce Solutions, please email AZRDC at