Originally published in Arizona Daily Star.
JobPath is a workforce development and advocacy organization that helps adults succeed in two-year or less education and job-training programs that lead to in-demand, high-wage careers. JobPath partners with community colleges and job-training centers and provides students with case management and financial support to help them succeed in their programs of study — programs such as nursing and aviation technology.
Founded in 1998 by Pima County Interfaith Council and invested community members, JobPath has served as a great program and opportunity for Tucsonans to get ahead in the competitive workforce, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, employment opportunities in Tucson and Pima County have been significantly impacted.
The McKinsey Global Institute stated that millions of jobs have been permanently changed or wiped out, and these shifts mean fewer hospitality and retail jobs in addition to ongoing automation of office and factory jobs. Before the pandemic, hospitality, retail and tourism were significant sources of jobs that were disproportionately held by people of color, particularly women. Parents with young children were further impacted due to limited child care options and virtual learning responsibilities that forced some parents to stay home and leave the workforce.
Consequently, due to changes in the labor market, many of these adults won’t be returning to their previous employers and will need job-training educational program opportunities in order to reenter the workforce.
The U.S. is experiencing the fastest economic growth since 1984, adding 8.3 million jobs since President Biden took office. We are now on track to return to pre-pandemic employment levels this year. With a tight labor market, and a record number of job openings, it is essential that workers have the skills necessary to enter high-quality jobs that can provide for their families.
Thanks to the passage of the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations budget bill, with the vote of Rep. Grijalva, JobPath secured $500,000 in Community Project Funding from the Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education.
This funding will support the enrollment of 200 recently displaced workers, with a focus on underrepresented women and parents, in short-term post-secondary degree or certificate programs. It will better support women and parents throughout Pima County who are either enrolled, or looking to enroll, in education and job training programs that lead to family sustaining wages.
It’s more than funding for a program. It’s a further investment in Pima County, the city of Tucson and Southern Arizona. JobPath will support the economic recovery of Southern Arizona, and its results are tested and proven. According to Applied Economics, a third-party evaluator, supporting JobPath has a total return on investment of 3:1, the $500,000 investment will generate $1.5 million in increased wages, tax revenue, and decreased public assistance costs.
We know that JobPath students play important roles in our community and contribute to our economic well-being here in Southern Arizona which is why it’s critical to continue to see this program’s success. Students from JobPath have a 90 percent graduation rate and 85 percent find a job in their field of study within six months of graduation.
With $500,000, JobPath will be able to reinvest in our community and improve the economic status of underserved families by removing barriers to educational achievement, so that they can lead healthier and more prosperous lives. Nearly 50% of JobPath students are raising young children, meaning this funding can help provide additional workforce training leading to salary increases, critical benefits, and establish a multigenerational game changer for families that can stop the cycle of poverty.
The JobPath project is a priority because it presents a unique opportunity for displaced workers in Southern Arizona to pursue job-training educational programs that are in-demand and provide economic opportunities. This program will give working people and families access to better housing, support the elimination of food insecurity, and help them afford quality early childhood education for their children.
When we give back and reinvest in our community through projects like these and give working folks equal access to economic opportunity, a thriving community follows.