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How KORE Power is developing its strategy to deliver Arizona manufacturing jobs

PHX Business Journal

Earlier this month, Julie Su, the Biden Administration’s Acting Secretary of Labor, visited Western Maricopa Education Center (West-MEC) to host a panel discussion on building pathways to careers in advanced manufacturing. It’s not surprising that she’d come to the Valley, where billions in investments have been announced for things like chip factories, EVs and lithium-ion battery cells.

Each of these facilities promises lots of jobs. But the United States has spent much of the last three decades letting other countries advance technologies that were invented here in the States. In doing so, our nation missed out on the job creation stimulated by bringing these technologies to market. Recent federal policy shifts have us changing course with lightning speed. Advanced manufacturing is coming home. But to be successful we need strong, sustained focus on workforce development.

At KORE Power, we’ve been taking steps to address this need since before work began on the KOREPlex in Buckeye. One advantage our company has is that we can incorporate lessons from our solutions facility in Vermont, which has been building energy storage systems for more than 50 years and has more than tripled its number of employees since 2022.

Comparing a facility in Vermont to one in Arizona may seem naïve. The entire state of Vermont is home to about 650,000 people, while Maricopa County boasts more than 4.5 million people. KORE’s solutions division is in Washington County, Vermont, where more than 53% of the population has an associate’s degree or higher, according to Federal Reserve Economic Data. The same data set shows about 44% of the population in Maricopa County has the educational attainment. The unemployment rate in Arizona in March was 3.8%; In Vermont it was only 2.2%.

When it comes to recruitment, however, there are similarities. Vermont, like Arizona, is home to leading technology schools and universities. It is also home to programs like those offered by West-MEC, bringing training and certification programs for people interested in advanced manufacturing. Like Arizona, Vermont also has strong public-private partnership opportunities, including a workforce development grant program that supports the growth of the state’s advanced manufacturing workforce.

The KOREPlex plant in the West Valley will hire a range of employees. While most of our jobs will be available to people with a GED, we will also have product development lines and professional positions requiring advanced degrees.

KORE Power: Working with Arizona colleges, high schools

Our workforce development strategy includes engagement at several levels. It means working with high schools, colleges and job training programs to offer advanced manufacturing certification. In Vermont, we have relationships with vocational schools, technical colleges and research universities across New England. In Arizona, we are in discussions with high schools, Maricopa County Community Colleges, Grand Canyon University, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona.

Federal and state commitments to workforce development also include funding opportunities for partnerships between advanced manufacturers and colleges and Universities interested in supporting workforce development.

Internships that lead to future job opportunities remain a key cog of our efforts. Our Vermont internship program has been a direct feeder into our operations – over the past four years, this program has successfully hired more than 95% of our interns to a full-time position. We hope to mirror this success in Arizona.

In Arizona, there are also opportunities to work with workers who have lost jobs due to the energy transition. These are extremely well-trained employees; people who understand the energy space and who could walk through the door on day one with expertise that will benefit entire teams.

As the United States builds its capacity in advanced manufacturing for energy and technology, there are millions of potential workers across the nation who want to be part of rebuilding our manufacturing infrastructure. These workers want the training that will allow them to build and innovate the products that will power our nation and drive the economy, and that will proudly hold that stamp of “Made in the USA.” As manufacturers, it is up to us to find those people where they are, and to give them the opportunity to thrive.

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