Scottsdale & Maricopa County programs reported
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press
As the digital age takes hold of most day-to-day aspects of American lives it brings with it, Scottsdale workforce development officials contend, a new gigabyte economy based on output, skill-sets and data points.
“That is a big question,” said Sheila Williams, Vista del Camino Community Center human services specialist, looking at her colleagues in her office at the south Scottsdale social services hub.
“Even those who have lived and thrived in education, for example, are the clients we have who are not prepared for the current job market. What do we do? Basically, what we do is we are here to assist anyone needing — and willing — to gain employment. To connect local employers to employees so they don’t have to navigate the market alone.”
The Vista del Camino Community Center, 7700 E. Roosevelt St., operates, among other things, as a senior center and social services hub for residents experiencing homelessness and providing food and economic relief for those who are in crisis, officials there say.
Alongside those services include a longstanding workforce development program older than the building itself.
Officials at the Vista del Camino Community Center are continuing and expanding workforce development efforts for local residents who need help finding employment as the local outreach hub has already seen thousands come through the front door since early July.
Dark Horse Trucking owner Riyad Mahmood was one of those people who came through the front door looking for help. He ended up in front of Jessica Wilkinson, Maricopa County Workforce Development coordinator.
“Basically I was in a position where I could barely take care of myself,” he said candidly in a July 25 phone interview with the Arizona Digital Free Press. “I couldn’t even take care of my daughter. A friend of mine, Kenny Williams, told me they [Vista del Camino] could maybe help. I just want it to be known Kenny Williams, aside from ‘Ms. Jessica,’ is the reason I am in this position today.”
Mr. Mahmood, about a year ago sought help at the Vista del Camino Community Center whereas Scottsdale and Maricopa County have a longstanding contract — known at City Hall as an intergovernmental agreement — to provide local workforce development services to residents in need.
“I had to do the work and everything, but honestly without Ms. Jessica guiding me through the LLC process … she just helped me understand what I needed to apply for and get the right applications,” Mr. Mahmood said. “Honestly, it was everything from job counseling to just pushing me in the right direction. I have been using my CDL [commercial driver’s license] since last November — that’s when I got my first contract.”
Mr. Mahmood says today he is living a full life.
“I can take care of myself and my daughter,” he pointed out. “It hasn’t even been a full year yet and so far I have started my own LLC and I am currently saving up to buy my own trailer.”
Mr. Mahmood owns a long-haul trucking company he credits the staff at Vista del Camino in south Scottsdale with helping him create.
Scottsdale City Council earlier this month approved a General Fund contingency transfer up to $51,478 to the Scottsdale Human Services Department to ensure the workforce development program is available through this fiscal year, which began July 1.
Local economic indicators?
Ms. Williams explains a major positive she is experiencing since first taking on her role at Vista del Camino about six years ago is employers are much more willing to take on candidates. Especially in Scottsdale, she says.
“Typically, the places we are placing is in Scottsdale or Scottsdale-adjacent in places like Phoenix or Tempe,” she said. “We are making positive relationships with local employers and as our employer base grows so do the opportunities for placement.”
When asked of signs of a local recession on the horizon, Ms. Williams said swiftly, numbers are on-par with previous summer months.
“We have not seen a leap in the amount of job seekers in the pipeline,” she said. “But I am baffled by what the next year is going to bring. We certainly are seeing the major impacts you suggest as rising costs of living, I have been at this location for six years now.”
Roger Lurie is a career coach at the Vista del Camino Community Center and he says he sees it all and offers some insight to the local jobs marketplace.
“I like to think of if more of ‘career coaching’ than ‘job hunting,’” he said, noting the typical duties of resume writing and interview preparations. “I think the principle thing that could be emerging is a number of our clients are under water and don’t know how to pay their mortgage or rent. They, some of them, are living in a deficit. And that is not a reasonable lifestyle.”
Mr. Lurie explains a lot of younger clients he works with don’t seem too interested in the job placement staples of recent years.
“I think there is an overabundance of restaurant jobs out there that young people just don’t want to do,” he said. “They would almost like to do the ‘gig’ work, flexible schedules, that sort of thing. I think that is one of the factors driving the need for certain sectors of the local economy.”
Ms. Wilkinson says she is proud of how she was able to help Mr. Mahmood.
“We put people back to work,” she explained. “It is really rewarding work and I really love helping people. I know I put somebody in a great job being on the road doing exactly what he wanted to be doing. I know he is doing better.”