It would be difficult to overestimate the impact Flagstaff’s educational sector has on our community. In addition to the sheer number of employees who are involved in education here, no other sector has as much direct influence on the city’s future workforce.
According to numbers provided by the City of Flagstaff, there are almost 5,200 employees who work for Northern Arizona University (NAU), Coconino Community College (CCC), or the Flagstaff Unified School District (FUSD). Plus there are hundreds more who are employed by preschools, private educational institutions or charter schools in the city.
To put that into context, Flagstaff Prospector (the highly useful website we featured in our last e-communication) estimates the total labor force in Flagstaff at 40,500 people, meaning 1 of every 8 workers in the city is employed by NAU, CCC or FUSD.
While the total figure includes everyone from office staff to bus drivers to cafeteria workers, the majority are educators and administrators. They are responsible not only for teaching our children the basic skills they need to be good citizens, but creating tomorrow’s workers.
And our local schools and colleges offer much more than a degree.
For example, in the case of public elementary and secondary schools, everything from federal mandates to locally-driven aspirations have resulted in expanded offerings for students going well beyond a basic education.
In addition to affordable two-year associate degrees and certificates, CCC provides continuing education for adults. It also serves as a vital bridge between distinct levels of education, allowing high school students to experience college through its CAVIAT and dual enrollment programs, and easing the way to a four-year college degree via the CCC2NAU initiative.
Meanwhile, NAU is a major force for innovation that feeds economic growth. With its “NAU Research Enterprise,” comprised of 15 high-level research centers and institutes, NAU is expanding the boundaries of knowledge in astronomy, digital technology, bioscience, and the environment. Its professors and students are also addressing social issues ranging from health inequality to family violence.
We often don’t think of educational venues as being an economic “sector” in and of themselves. But in Flagstaff, education is not only a major economic engine on par with tourism, healthcare and manufacturing; it also has shaped the workforce employed by every other public, private or non-profit entity in the city.