By Carrie Samson, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

The future of American competitiveness and the American Dream rely on the ingenuity of its workforce. We need health care professionals who develop vaccines to fight disease, energy companies that develop new ways to power our future, entrepreneurs who invent businesses and create jobs, and technology companies, manufacturers, and millions of other professionals to innovate and drive our economy forward. But to make all these things possible, we first need quality teachers.

The federal government agrees. After years of debate and compromise, the U.S. Department of Education released new regulations to improve the quality of teacher preparation programs. States will now have more transparency about the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs while these programs will have better feedback systems to assess their own performance. In addition, teacher candidates will be able to make more informed decisions when choosing a preparation pathway. This streamlined process for schools to obtain better data regarding teacher performance, give feedback to providers, and show prospective employees clear pathways to employment sound a lot like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s (USCCF’s) Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative. And just in the nick of time.

Arizona is in the middle of a teacher shortage crisis. The state reported that more than 60% of district and charter schools had unfilled teaching positions at the beginning of the 2014–2015 school year. In the 2013–2014 school year, 24% of first-year teachers and 20% of second-year teachers left their positions. Of the teachers applying for positions, school leaders reported that only a small percentage were prepared for the challenges of Arizona’s increasingly diverse student population.

Recognizing the gravity of this issue, education pioneers A for Arizona took action. Through its partnership with the Arizona Chamber Foundation, the group joined USCCF’s signature workforce initiative in the hopes that TPM strategies could offer a new way of thinking for Arizona schools and teacher providers. Based on the principles of supply chain management, TPM builds a way for employers to lead and streamline efforts to prepare, onboard, and develop the talent they need to compete in today’s economy.

In a new case study, Teacher Talent Pipelines: Streamlining the Path from Student to Educator in Arizona, USCCF and A for Arizona explored ways schools, as employers of teacher talent, can capitalize on TPM’s concepts to build a pipeline of quality teacher talent to meet the needs of the schools and the community. The paper recommends the following first steps:

  • As employers, schools and districts must be empowered to come together in groups as “collaboratives” to collectively explore their demand for key teaching jobs as well as define what common competencies and credentials qualified candidates are expected to have.
  • Collaboratives of schools and/or districts should analyze current ways of sourcing teacher talent to identify where they find top job candidates and employees.
  • Once top sources are identified, schools and districts need to build and incentivize strong relationships with these organizations to ensure a mutually beneficial partnership.

This case study begins a conversation on how schools, as employers, can better reflect on their own needs and provides a framework under which schools can communicate those needs back to teacher preparation programs. Through the TPM model, A for Arizona and USCCF believe that we can create better outcomes for schools needing quality teacher talent, providers seeking detailed information on what schools need, and most importantly, better outcomes for teacher candidates wanting to know they are prepared to lead classrooms.

Classrooms in Arizona and around the country need quality teachers now. Through the use of TPM strategies, A for Arizona is leading the way to create the teachers we need today to build the workforce of tomorrow.