Scheduled for opening in 2023, the new Center of Excellence in Henderson, Nevada, represents a “game-changer” for the city’s workforce development, according to Dr. Federico Zaragoza, President of College of Southern Nevada, which will operate the $12 million dollar Center.
“We’re not a building. We’re not programs. We are an entire ecosystem,” Zaragoza says. “And the Center of Excellence is the hub of that ecosystem.”
Connecting to the hub are industrial, educational, development and governmental stakeholders already working in concert to assure a strategically aligned talent pipeline.
The concept of the public-private ecosystem originated several years ago when Haas Automation, the world’s largest manufacturer of machine tools, sought an expansion location for its California-based operations. Henderson, a Southern Nevada city of more than 334,000, offered both proximity and lowered costs as well as reduced tax and regulatory burdens. The city also moved quickly to address workforce needs.
“Henderson’s pro-business environment is one of the reasons organizations like Haas are choosing to expand or relocate here,” says Henderson Mayor Debra March. “We knew that by working together we could create the skilled workforce the company and our community needed, now and for the jobs of the future.”
Collaboration was extensive, involving representatives from city government, economic development and workforce development organizations as well as Haas and CSN; the result is a comprehensive, demand-driven system that aligns needed skills with jobs.
A 2,000-hour menu. A competency-based model.
The 20,000-square-foot Center will be equipped with state-of-the-art settings mirroring the manufacturing environment, ensuring relevant hands-on experience. Equally important, existing curriculum modules will be customized for the individual employer, whether small employers or large ones such as Haas, expected to create 1,400 jobs over the next five years.
“Think of it as a restaurant menu,” Zaragoza explains. “Different companies need different skill sets. Modules give us the ability to customize, and we already have over 2,000 hours of curriculum to pull from.”
A competency-based model will be implemented through strategic sequencing of curriculum, verifying “stackable” skills through certifications up to an associate degree. The option of accelerated programming provides flexibility for businesses and for job seekers.
Real-time expertise. Real-world experience.
While some highly experienced core instructors will be drawn from local industry, Zaragoza emphasizes that the Center is prepared to recruit nationally. “We’re going to be pulling in real-time experts as we need them, creating the necessary networks and a customer-driven mentality to operate at the speed of business.”
Potential employees and trainees will be funneled into the system through Workforce Connections, Southern Nevada’s workforce development board. The Center is also aligning with Henderson’s K-12 public education, in alliance with Henderson’s economic development efforts.
“Education provides a key foundation for economic development,” says Jared Smith, Henderson’s Director Economic Development and Tourism. “Our partnerships linking schools and industry bring momentum to economic growth.”
Zaragoza also sees public-private collaboration as natural and necessary, all sides working in balance. “It’s synergistic to create a win-win situation.” He also points out that the Center of Excellence system is based on best practices already proven in large markets, putting Henderson in a strong competitive position.
“It’s a real game-changer,” he notes.