In 2010, Phoenix ranked highest nationally for the number of unemployed and out-of-school 16-24 year olds.* This demographic, also known as “disconnected youth,” quickly caught the eye of government officials and as a result, the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative was born. The initiative is part of the national Opportunities for Youth coalition on a mission to re-connect these young adults to educational and career opportunities. The collaboration’s determined efforts seem to be working. Since the group’s creation, the City of Phoenix has seen a 26% decrease in local disconnected youth that are now engaged in the area’s workforce.*
Young Job Seeker poses for a photo at job fair
Job seekers talk to employers at job fair
Young job seekers work on computers to create resumes
Young job seekers work on computers to apply for jobs
The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) Division of Employment and Rehabilitation Services (DERS) administers the state’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title 1-B program to connect unemployed youth to employment and educational opportunities. Through the program, Arizona’s youth can receive guidance to identify a career for which they are passionate, learn the soft skills needed to obtain and keep a job, help create a professional résumé and possibly qualify for assistance to cover the costs associated with workplace related expenses including training, certifications, educational opportunities and more.
Youth employment assistance is available in any DERS or ARIZONA@WORK office throughout the state. DERS and its partners also offer numerous job fairs and hiring events throughout the year. Recently, DERS staff assisted in the 100k Opportunity for Youth Fair and Forum in Maryvale - a west Phoenix neighborhood and home to many of the city’s disconnect youth. The event brought approximately 600 young job seekers, hiring employers and community service providers together.
Kevin Katsuki, Opportunities for Youth Manager for the Maricopa County Education Service Agency, said that he was honored to be the project coordinator this year’s event.
“I have been blessed, so I want to give back,” explained Katuski. “For me, it was high school, college, then a good job. That is not the path that many of these kids have the opportunity to take.”
Event volunteers greeted the timid young people, many of whom were attending their first job fair. After their needs were assessed, most of the eager young job seekers began at the résumé station where ARIZONA @ WORK staff and other volunteers helped them translate their skills and experience into the workplace attributes employers seek. Printers were available so they could immediately hand out their new résumés to hiring employers.
However, as any good employee knows, a perfected résumé is not enough to land you the job. Soft skills are a must in today’s workforce. DERS staff and other local employment specialists hosted on-site workshops to educate the workforce rookies on how to interview and be successful on the job. Mock interviews were conducted to prepare novice workers for meeting with employers. There was also a private area for on-site job interviews, for those who were lucky enough to make that great first impression.
This economic epidemic is still an issue for Maryvale, but events like this provide young job seekers with hope for their future. Maryvale born-and-raised eighteen year-old, Victor Vazquez, gushed about how events like this one leave him eager to enter the workforce.
“We don’t have a lot of opportunities in Maryvale,” said Vazquez. “It’s great that people are coming from around the state to do this for us. I hope that I can give back to my community one day, too.”
Please visit our Employment Service page for more information about workforce services for youth and adults.
For a list of upcoming job fairs, hiring events and workshops, please visit ARIZONA@WORK.
*Source: Zwillich, Todd (May, 25 2017), The Takeaway. Phoenix Takes on Problem of Disconnected Youth. WYNC, NPR http://www.wnyc.org/story/phoenix-takes-problem-disconnected-youth/
By Jillian Seamans