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Workforce Development Month: Connecting People to Opportunity

September is Workforce Development Month. Within her administration’s first nine months, Governor Katie Hobbs has already seized many opportunities to further develop Arizona’s workforce and the economy at large. From the BuilditAZ initiative to double construction apprenticeships and the recent groundbreaking of Google’s new data center campus in Mesa to the signing of SB1102, which puts Prop 400 on the ballot for Arizonans to vote on our future economic growth, Governor Hobbs is executing her vision for a strong and expansive Arizona economy. This week, Governor Hobbs met with Tribal leaders during the first State Tribal Summit with a focus on economic development, to ensure statewide economic growth includes everyone. Governor Hobbs announced she will spend the next week in Taiwan and South Korea to develop new partnerships for the benefit of Arizona’s economy.

As Arizona’s economy grows, and more and better jobs emerge within our state, it becomes critical that workforce programs exist for individuals who need assistance in entering into the workforce and expanding their skills and prospects. As Arizona’s human services agency and the participating State agency within the ARIZONA@WORK partnership, the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) provides a wide array of services for job seekers and employers. Workforce Development Month is an opportunity to highlight the ways in which these programs help individuals engage with the economy as it grows with them.

Through ARIZONA@WORK, DES works with county and local entities to match job seekers with employers of all sizes to find the right positions for them. Job seekers can access Arizona’s largest jobs database, participate in workshops, build resumes, attend job fairs, find training, and meet with an employment specialist (even virtually) to find the right solutions for their needs and wants. Child care assistance is also available to provide care and education to children while their parents enter into the workforce. There are also many services tailored to specific communities, like veterans, Nutrition Assistance and Cash Assistance recipients, older adults, refugees and aspiring apprentices, among others. DES also houses the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) so job seekers with disabilities have equal access to thrive in Arizona’s workforce.

Celebrating 50 Years of the Rehabilitation Act

This month, we also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which was enacted on September 26. This Act was the first federal legislation to address access and equity for people with disabilities. The accessibility standards created and enforced through the act and by later additions, like Section 508 in 1986, are critical to helping ensure individuals with disabilities thrive in the workplace.

Within this historical context, RSA serves a critical function by providing employment and supportive services to individuals with disabilities, helping them to obtain competitive employment. The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program provides a variety of services to persons with disabilities, including:

  • Vocational counseling and assistance with creating job goals
  • Evaluations to determine job skills and interests
  • Assistance with training or education
  • Help with job interview skills
  • Special, or assistive, technology that is needed for a job
  • Assistance with transportation to training services, job sites and other work-related needs

RSA also includes programs like the Business Enterprise Program, whereby individuals in the VR program who are blind or visually impaired to operate merchandising businesses, as well as the Older Individuals who are Blind Program, which provides services specific to that demographic. RSA services demonstrate our commitment to ensuring all Arizonans who wish to succeed in the workforce have the opportunity to do so.

ARIZONA@WORK: A Partnership

Though DES has a prominent role, ARIZONA@WORK is a partnership with cities, counties and other state agencies across Arizona to help employers of all sizes and types recruit, develop and retain the best employees for their needs. It also provides services and resources to pursue and secure employment. DES relies on its partners for keen insight into local job markets, as well as for strong relationships with employers and other workforce-related agencies. As with many DES programs, collaboration is key to our shared success, understanding that our communities are well served by the organizations and individuals within them. I am grateful for the workforce development professionals across ARIZONA@WORK that help individuals engage with employers and job seekers alike to grow the economy.

Angie Rodgers