Dr. CHAD WHELAN

CEO, Banner-University Medicine Tucson

What are some issues that you think need more or better collaboration and how would you begin to address those?

A skilled workforce is a key attractor for economic development, and it is an area in which our region struggled, even pre-pandemic. Now, it is an even greater risk. But, we also have some highly innovative and effective institutions that are transforming opportunities not only for our young adults but also older adults looking for new and improved opportunities. I do believe though, that we collectively need to help publicly celebrate these innovations locally and afar so that people can see the impact on our future workforce. At the same time, the economic development partners in our region do need to help coordinate and prioritize what target areas our talent pipeline development efforts need to focus on. All sectors of our economy are struggling to find talent at this moment, so if we do not help prioritize and focus, we run the risk of trying to do everything for everyone and not succeeding for anyone.

Two of the top focus areas in the Pivot Playbook recovery plan are infrastructure and talent acquisition. Within those two focus areas, what are the most pressing issues for your organization and what can your organization do to address those?

Far and away the most pressing issue for our organization and industry is people. The healthcare sector is growing and has been dramatically affected by the pandemic and subsequent great resignation. We have an immediate need for healthcare workers today, but we also know that our future needs will dwarf what we are seeing today. We see this as an opportunity to work with our pipeline partners such as Pima JTED, Pima Community College, The University of Arizona and others, to build a better pipeline for people who want a career in the healthcare sector. We need to do a better job of helping people see the broad opportunities that the healthcare field can offer. 

Tucson has developed a number of industry clusters that are gaining momentum in the region such as aerospace and defense, mining, biosciences and medicine, and various aspects of technology. Do you consider those to be areas that need continued focus and why?

Given the size of the population in Southern Arizona, I think it is important that we have industry clusters that we are known for. It will be hard for us to be everything for everyone. These clusters have been successful, and we should continue to look to grow these. However, we also need to look to how to expand the circle of these clusters where it makes sense. As an example, our current footprint in biosciences and medicine while solid could grow significantly in size but also expand into the sector more broadly.

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