Joint Effort Focuses on Innovative Employment and Training Services for Youth

Tucson and Pima County’s long-established consolidated employment and training system serves several target populations but places a special emphasis on services to young people, ensuring they have the education, work experience and job readiness skills to be successful members of the workforce and meet the needs of the community. The 25-member Workforce Development board funds school-year, summer and year-round programs which encourage young people to stay in or return to school and which provide job opportunities.

Fifteen years ago, the City of Tucson and Pima County joined forces to deliver employment and training services to residents of the entire area. The consolidated system combines federal Job Training Partnership Act block grant funds and local and discretionary grants into a county-wide system which serves 6,000 people annually; targeted are low-income families, laid-off workers, homeless people, women wanting non-traditional careers, and youth entering the workforce, and at least 65 percent of those served must be City residents.

The consolidated system is guided by a 25-member workforce development board -- the Private Industry Council – which includes Tucson Mayor George Miller. "The Workforce Development Board is one of the best examples of City, County and regional cooperation," explains Mayor Miller. "The consolidated City-County PIC saves administrative dollars which are then used for additional services to low income people. This cooperation is especially strong in the Workforce Board’s youth programs, where both the City and County provide millions of dollars of local funds to expand and support the consolidated effort. Without this consolidated, community effort we would not have the level of local involvement we have now."

Youth Focus -- The Board has placed a special emphasis on providing services to young people, and between 1991 and 1997 has served 15,594 – 76 percent of them Tucson residents – in summer work experience and education programs alone. Through summer programs, 570 dropouts were returned to school. In school-year programs during this period, 4,706 youth were served, with 742 being placed in permanent jobs at an average wage of $5.16 per hour.

In the summer of 1997, the Pima County Workforce Development Board combined County, City, State, federal and private sector funds to serve more than 3,805 youth, ages 11 to 21 years, in summer employment, remedial education, and career exploration programs. During the school year, innovative youth programs provided an additional 850 middle school-age and high school-age youth with workforce preparation, career exposure, cultural enrichment and community leadership opportunities through after-school and weekend jobs or internships. Year-round programs also helped youth make the transition from school into meaningful careers, and provided dropouts with opportunities to gain work experience while working to obtain a GED. In 1996-97, the programs served a total of 4,655 youth between 11 and 21 years of age.

Among the specific programs operated in 1997:

  • Pledge-A-Job recruited over 130 private sector employers who either hired youth in positions or sponsored students in academic classes. In 1997, 471 youth were hired at an average wage of $5.36 per hour. The program was supervised and employers recruited by an active employer advisory board.
  • Nontraditional Employment for Young Women encouraged high school girls to pursue careers in fields in which women are traditionally under-represented. This was achieved by matching youth with mentors and work sites throughout the County. Participants shadowed welders, engineers and mechanics while attending weekly career exploration workshops.
  • School Plus Jobs provided after-school jobs and career classes for students in the Sunnyside, Amphi and Tucson Unified School Districts, to keep the students motivated and in school. Jobs were tied to school attendance and academic performance. Parent involvement was a key component of this program.
  • Summer Youth Employment and Education targeted primarily low-income youth who gained work experience in the public sector and who participated in basic education instruction, mentoring and job readiness skill classes. In 1997, youth in the academic component showed an average six-month grade increase during the seven-week program.
  • The Middle School Careers and Education program was initiated in 1994 in response to parent and neighborhood requests for summer activities for 11- to 13-year-olds. The young people who have participated in the program have increased academic skills, learned about careers, and volunteered in their community. In 1997, 1,100 youth were served.
  • Youthbuild Pre-Apprenticeship enrolled drop-out teens in a 32-week program to earn their GEDs while learning construction skills, acquiring OSHA certification, and then putting their new skills to work on a construction site.
  • Summer and After-School Internships represents the expansion of a popular summer internship program in County departments to include an after-school, semester-long internship that combined work experience with computer training and job skills workshops.
  • Tucson Urban League/University of Arizona In-Step introduced at-risk minority students to a college setting, matching youth to work sites on campus for two semesters. Tutoring, counseling, and weekly computer classes complemented program activities.
  • The Las Artes Program provides positive vocational and educational choices for youth through employment in public art projects. The goal of the program, which is funded by the Arizona Department of Transportation under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, is to infuse drab public thoroughfares with the liveliness and color of mosaic tile murals designed and crafted by young people. Working in conjunction with Tucson/Pima Arts Council and Tucson Youth Development, 30 youths produced each mural project under the supervision of a teacher/artist. High school drop-outs enrolled in the program also worked on obtaining their GEDs. All but one of the 30 youths enrolled in the program in 1997 completed it.

Performance – The Pima County Workforce Development Board has established a goal of ensuring that young people have the education, work experience and job readiness skills to be successful members of the workforce and meet the needs of the community. Evaluation results suggest that the employment programs the board has established are making a strong contribution toward the effort to achieve this goal. In the summer of 1997:

  • 94 percent of all participants completed the program successfully;
  • 83 dropouts returned to school in the fall;
  • 130 companies pledged jobs and scholarships for 471 youth;
  • 1,833 youth earned school credit;
  • Youth in the education component showed a seven-month grade level increase upon completing the program.

Parent surveys were part of the evaluation. Ninety-seven percent of those surveyed felt their child’s summer experience met or surpassed their expectations; they frequently responded that their child had learned the responsibilities of maintaining a job and of managing money, and the importance of a strong work ethic. Youth surveys showed that the highlights of their summer experience were, in rank order: earning money, earning school credit, and learning how to conduct an effective job search. A six-month follow-up survey indicated that 62 percent of the participants had better grades, 94 percent are still in schools, 80 percent are on schedule to graduate, and 90 percent feel they have a better chance to find a job. Only six percent report that they have been in trouble with the law.

Contact: Henry Atha, Director, Community Services Department, Pima County, (502) 740-5205

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The United States Conference of Mayors

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