To help bridge students from a strong education to an even stronger economic future, Spokane County has worked in close collaboration with businesses and employers to assess the skills needed for high-demand, high-paying jobs — and to provide the resources to educate and train community members with those very skills.
Spokane Valley Tech is the collaborative effort of four county schools that have come together with backing from a local energy company to provide career development opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. The planning committee for the school met with area businesses to learn about in-demand jobs, and then surveyed students to discover their interests. As a result, the curriculum now offers Aerospace & Advanced Manufacturing, Sports Medicine, Biomedical Sciences, Engineering, Entrepreneurship, and Finance. Spokane Valley Tech is meeting the educational needs of high school students and workforce development needs of Spokane businesses. The hope is that this will result in higher-paying jobs and improved health outcomes for county residents, while also boosting the local economy.
The Academic Health Science Center on the Riverpoint Educational and Research Campus, a higher education collaborative between Washington State University, Eastern Washington University, and University of Washington, is another strong example of collaboration and leveraging resources to better meet education and job training needs. It is the result of an effort that began in 2006 between these universities, Greater Spokane Inc., the business community, regional healthcare organizations, and elected officials at all levels. The campus includes a four-year medical program, colleges of nursing and pharmacy, a first-year dental program, and allied health programs. A recent study found that the total economic impact of the campus is $350 million, with the campus providing 1,800 jobs. It is estimated that by 2030 the total economic impact will be $1.6B with the campus providing 9,000 jobs. At the same time, the campus fills a gap of much-needed rural health care in an area with severe physician shortages. The growing Riverpoint Campus will provide more opportunity for Washington students to go to medical school, increase the number of healthcare students who gain practice experience in rural settings, and create health care cost savings and increased availability of preventive care to underserved populations.
“One of the most important things to us in Spokane is being able to attract new businesses to our community,” says Alisha Benson, Vice President of Education and Workforce at Greater Spokane Incorporated and Executive Director of Spokane STEM. “Developing and improving the workforce to compete in this economy is a priority that helps us achieve these goals.”