In her 50’s and after years of raising her family, Cyndi Newburn wasn’t sure what going back to work meant for her.
“I took all of those what do you want to be when you grow up sort of tests in high school and I said I could do anything,” Newburn said. “I took it again when I was 30 and it said the same things, and again at 40 it said the same things. I love doing everything, but you can’t do everything.”
In the ’90s Newburn began to connect with groups offering to help find work. Eventually, she stumbled across Workforce Connection, which helped her focus on her talents and even helped pay for her to go back to college.
“They paid for me to take that first class and I took college algebra because I wanted to know if my brain still worked,” Newburn said. “It was so different going back because when I went to school those problems took a long time to write them all out — now they used calculators. I wasn’t very popular because I thought it was just so much fun, but I was just thrilled.”
That first class led to more and Newburn eventually got a job at SRP. Now, years later, she works for Edward Jones in Ahwatukee Foothills, but she still credits her smooth entrance back into the work force to that original training she received through Workforce Connection.
The program has changed over the years but the city of Phoenix still runs its own Phoenix Workforce Connection, which offers help to those looking for jobs as well as businesses looking for employees. Phoenix’s workforce connection program is unique because of its placement within the city, which gives staff easy access to both sides of the equation.
“The other divisions in our department are out visiting with businesses every day,” said Stan Flowers, workforce development supervisor. “One of the first questions businesses ask is about the quality of the workforce. That’s our job with the Phoenix Workforce Connection is to do our due diligence and use the funds we get to make sure that qualified workforce is there for existing businesses and new businesses that may locate to the Valley.”
The city has resources for residents who want to help themselves find a job but don’t know where to start. They also host job search and career development workshops for those who need more guidance. They base the help they give off of what they know is in demand.
“Being a part of the economical development department, we get insight to what businesses are needing in terms of skill set,” Flowers said. “We have easy access to information on what businesses are looking for. We won’t let someone go into a certain occupation if the labor market information says there are no jobs and won’t be any jobs, or that they are minimum-wage jobs. We will not use training dollars to help someone train for an occupation where there is no demand or extremely low pay. They can do that on their own. Our focus is on high wage, high growth areas.”
City staff say providing these services benefit residents as well as the city.
“It really increases Phoenix’s competitive advantage against other cities in the Valley or country, or maybe even the world, to offer these services,” said Pam Lindley, program manager. “We have the workforce program and we’re also very interested in doing all we can to get businesses to come here, keep them here, and get them to expand and create jobs for residents.”
Getting help through the city of Phoenix is easy. There are several locations across the Valley to go for an orientation. From there residents can decide for themselves what steps they want to take next.
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