Zeroing in on most underemployed neighborhoods in Arizona

An initiative to help one of the most underemployed neighborhoods in Arizona is succeeding.

In its first year, a collaboration of public and private agencies far surpassed its goal to put residents to work in Maryvale, a sprawling “urban village” in west Phoenix. Today, several thousand citizens have new jobs because of the collaboration.

Now, the initiative is expanding its efforts in the area that has a high percentage of residents on welfare. Maryvale makes up about 5 percent of the state’s population but accounted for 12 percent of the state’s unemployment a year ago. Today, that number is down to 10 percent.

The initiative is determined to continue to increase the odds for all able-bodied residents, particularly teenagers and young adults, to obtain successful long-term careers, said David Adame, CEO of the non-profit Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC), that is leading the effort.

“CPLC is leveraging the strengths of the youthful, diverse and family-oriented Maryvale community to help its members and businesses rise to their potential,” said Adame, who has worked to find innovative ways to reach out to youth.  

Others participating in the initiative are the Maryvale+Work Initiative, Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity, Goodwill, and the Center for the Future of Arizona.

Maryvale, which encompasses 37.6 square miles, has about 400,000 residents. Forty-four percent are under 24 years old. In addition to high unemployment, Maryvale residents make up 28 percent of people on welfare in Arizona, 22 percent on the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), and 9 percent on food stamps.

A year ago, the agencies and organizations that work with those unemployed in Maryvale decided to team up to see if they could have more impact. Historically, each entity did its own thing separately, said Keith Forte, workforce project manager for the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity, one of the agencies involved.

Together, they set a goal to make 2,500 job placements the first year. They took a number of steps including recruiting large employers and holding job fairs. The results speak for themselves. During the first active year of the collaboration, 4,106 people were hired, Forte said.   

There is still much to do. A number of projects are underway including:

CPLC Engagement Center An 8,000-square foot center dedicated to help Maryvale residents, particularly youth, with career training and education is slated to open in January 2019 inside Desert Sky Mall at 75th Avenue and Thomas Road. It will be open 364 days a year to offer training classes in retail, banking and customer service. New trainings also will be developed in response to business and job seeker needs and will include “upskilling” classes open to all mall employees.

Retail Careers The Center for the Future of Arizona’s RetailWorks AZ initiative and CPLC this month joined with leaders from Arizona’s retail sector to expand efforts to decrease unemployment through engagement with employers in retail and other key industries to increase long term career opportunities.  

Another goal under discussion is how to provide higher education opportunities or transportation to local colleges for Maryvale youth, Forte said. Currently, there is no community college in Maryvale.

Much of the credit for the initiative’s success goes to Walmart, Adame said. Its charitable arm has provided $1.5 million in grants to accelerate a regional plan to create long-term career opportunities for Arizonans including delivering “upskilling” resources to Maryvale. In addition to Walmart, funding also comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, the Pulliam Charitable Trust, Starbucks and State Farm.

Victoria Harker

1 comment

  • Wonderful news! Thank you for such great efforts, CPLC!

    Any plans to duplicate these efforts in Tucson? Imago Dei Middle School is working with very similar students and families, all of whom are living below the poverty line.

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