Together, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the existence of the DNA double helix. Steve Jobs, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter catapulted Pixar into the powerhouse it is today. John Lennon and Paul McCartney brought us the Beatles. Partnerships encourage progress. Collaboration cultivates creativity. Great events, discoveries, and accomplishments are made when great minds mesh — this is the modus operandi of West Valley educators — and it shows.

As one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation, the West Valley has changed drastically over the past two decades, as has the educational landscape (both locally and nationally). With increasing and constantly evolving demands placed on school districts, educators, parents, and communities, collaboration has become increasingly important.

West Valley educational leaders, community organizations and various industries and businesses have created a symbiotic infrastructure that starts with K-12 institutions and carries through to post-secondary and CTE programs. This collaborative pipeline continues to produce the talented workers needed to support the West Valley’s rapidly expanding economy, while creating endless opportunities for local students and ensuring that area industry needs will be supplied with homegrown and highly skilled talent.

Homegrown health talent, here to stay

The old narrative of, “Why choose the West Valley,” is gone. With 11 different K-12 school districts, many of which contain A-plus rated schools and nationally-recognized charter schools; upwards of 25 post-secondary education options; combined with increasing employment opportunities and an enriched quality of life; the narrative is now, “Why not choose the West Valley?”

“At Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine (AZCOM), we have found that if a student from Arizona completes his or her osteopathic medical training at Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine and enters a residency in Arizona, there is a 97 percent likelihood that student will remain in Arizona to practice,” says Lori A. Kemper, dean Midwestern University’s Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Why not let that pipeline remain in the West Valley?”

And again, partnerships are part of what fuel the pipeline and change dated perceptions of the West Valley — something which Kemper knows well, as exemplified by Midwestern University’s partnership with neighboring Abrazo Arrowhead Hospital.

“Students have been training at Arrowhead Hospital since the late 1990s,” Kemper says. “Additionally, we have many adjunct faculty who primarily practice there. As a result of some of our graduates ultimately practicing with Sound Physicians and other medical groups at Abrazo West, we have also developed clerkships in collaboration with Abrazo West Campus.”

In 2015, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) began to join all residencies under an ACGME single-accreditation system, an agreement that finally came to fruition this year, according to Kemper.

“About that same time, Abrazo, under the leadership of Bill Ellert, MD, really began moving forward in its due diligence to create a multi-year plan for new graduate medical education (residency) development,” Kemper adds.

This collaborative effort to churn out more talent in the healthcare sector is crucial, as this market continues to grow exponentially. Turn your attention to Goodyear, as an example, with The Goodyear Medical Innovation Corridor housing 200 medical-related businesses, including Abrazo West, Banner Health, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Integrated Medical Service, Phoenix Spine Surgery Center, and many more.

“Healthcare, in general, is an essential service, whether it be delivered by physicians, graduating from the residency programs that Abrazo has to offer, or receiving care from pharmacists, podiatrists, physician assistants, physical therapists and occupational therapists training at Abrazo hospitals,” Kemper says.

Stewards of energy and talent

“About seven or eight years ago Randy Edington, former chief nuclear officer of Palo Verde Generating Station, approached West-MEC about partnering with Estrella Mountain Community College and its energy program to start promoting the energy industry to an even younger group of students and better fill the energy pipeline of future employees,” explains Greg Donovan, superintendent of West-MEC.

Donovan went on to describe that the conversation around “real partnerships,” that would be truly committed and ongoing, with on-site and continuous support and involvement by each partner.

“From there, the energy program was designed,” Donovan says, “built and implemented at West-MEC’s Southwest Campus, where each of the partners has a permanent presence and ongoing commitment to that industry.”

This hands-on collaboration has enabled students and industry professionals to interact on a regular basis, allowing students to see that industry professionals never cease to continue their education.

“The partnership between APS, West-MEC and EMCC has been a fantastic example of how we are preparing a strong pipeline of workers in support of the needs of our local businesses and communities,” says Maria Lacal, executive vice president and chief nuclear officer at APS’ Palo Verde Generating Station.

“The programs that have already been established and those that are continuing to be developed through this strong partnership are creating the workforce of the future and helping to build a stronger economy for the long-term,” Lacal adds.

In addition to feeding the pipeline and talent within the West Valley’s energy sector, this particular partnership also serves as a valuable template for other education-industry mashups.

“Another great component of the partnership,” says Paula Livingston, dean of Estrella Mountain Community College, “is that Palo Verde donated equipment to the program.”

A donation, that according to Livingston, provides students with hands-on, real-time exposure to a decommissioned flow loop.

“Educational institutions are typically scraping for funding and resources, making it that much more difficult to fulfill equipment-related needs,” Livingston says. “To have a partner willing to provide this type of equipment is invaluable in establishing these kinds of partnerships.

And, because the programs yielded by these partnerships are offered in conjunction with Estrella Mountain Community College, high school students are co-enrolled and acquire up to one year of college credits as they complete their last two years of high school. Upon graduation, students can complete an additional year of college for an associate’s degree, or enter a four-year college program at the sophomore level.   

Additionally, students involved with high school Career and technical education (CTE) programs have a much higher graduation rate than the average graduation rate in Arizona from a regular high school program. In fact, since the program began in the fall of 2016, all enrolled students have stayed in the program and graduated from high school.

Onward and outward

As the West Valley continues to expand, so will the needs of its growing industries. To meet the anticipated employment demands and skills in areas such as healthcare, energy, technology and advanced manufacturing, partnerships continue to evolve and the West Valley education sector is poised to produce the talent.

“The growth ahead puts us in a wonderful position to see what’s coming,” Livingston says. “And, it’s much easier to prepare than to retrofit after the fact. We are getting more industries interested in partnerships as economic development offices bring in more business.”

“We have open land, good weather, and can provide energy and service that reach globally, as well as just locally,” Donovan adds. “With the West Valley pro-business and pro-growth attitudes, it is ripe for all industry, but especially energy and the entire skilled workforce gamut. The West Valley is smart-growth and pro-growth, while keeping an eye on water and energy consumption for the future. Together, the future in the West Valley is bright.”

West Valley advancaed educational institutions


ASU West Campus

NAU at Glendale

NAU at Estrella Mountain

NAU at North Valley

Thunderbird School of Global Management


Arizona Automotive Institute

Arizona College

DeVry University

Franklin Pierce University

Grand Canyon University

Huntington University

ITT Technical

Midwestern University

Ottawa University

Universal Technical Institute

Community colleges

Buckeye Education Center

Estrella Mountain Community College

Glendale Community College

Rio Salado Community College


West-MEC (Central Campus, Northeast Campus, Southwest Campus, Northwest Campus, Diesel Campus, Start@WEST-MEC)