Making Arizona's workforce keep up with the jobs of the future

Making Arizona’s workforce keep up with the jobs of the future

COOLIDGE, AZ — Since the production lines started running last year, Lucid has received 37,000 reservations for its high-performance electric cars. Lucid Motors is in the process of expanding. It means training a workforce to meet the skill-level demands needed in the age of high-tech manufacturing.

A few miles away, on the campus of Central Arizona College, a group of Lucid junior tech maintenance workers is busy tearing down a robot arm — dissecting the wrist, a lesson in troubleshooting and repair.

“We’re able to give them the experience of what they’re going to see once they get on the factory floor,” said Jennifer Farner, Senior Manager of Learning and Development for Lucid Motors.

The automaker is literally creating its own history in Casa Grande. They are building a 21st-century electric automobile with a 1,100-horsepower engine. It can travel 520 miles on a single charge.

“Casa Grande has never seen nothing like this. Pinal County has never seen nothing like this. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of people,” said Vicente Procela, who was born and raised in Eloy. He is one of the 1,700 Lucid employees learning new skills. Procela is working a job he never imagined five years ago.

“It makes me fulfilled coming home. I’ve done something at work rather than clocking in and clocking out,” Procela said. “I’m accomplishing something I get to share with my son. I get to tell him I’m going to school which he is kind of shocked about.”

The training program is part of Drive 48, a collaboration among government, industry, and academia to bolster Arizona’s tech workforce training efforts.

“At Lucid we’re developing from within because the goal is to promote as many employees as we can versus hiring from the outside,” Farner said.

Over the next several years, 6,000 Lucid employees will come through the Drive 48 program. Many will return as they advance through the company.

“My son seeing that I’m going to college, at the age I am, gives him a better perspective,” said Fernando Perez.

For some of Lucid’s employees, the opportunity to learn and advance is transformative. Perez is a lifelong Casa Grande resident. Before Lucid, Perez worked in a job for 13 years putting labels on buckets. Now he is learning robotics.

“It’s a great experience to be a role model for my family, my children to see it’s never too late to pursue something that they want to do in life,” he said.

Perez will have opportunities to learn other skills and advance along with other Lucid employees as the carmaker grows its footprint in Pinal County.

“To move forward we all have to work together,” Farner said. “We all have to work together to identify what are the skills, what are the competencies where we want to go. We’re mapping out what that looks like because we have a blank slate.

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