The City of Phoenix and Phoenix College announced a partnership called “Neighborhood College,” which provides onsite courses for city employees.
Phoenix College will deliver courses directly to city employees downtown, eliminating any transportation or access barriers that might arise. Among the offered subjects are accounting, web development, communication, and customer service, though employees have access to all courses in the college’s business program.
The intention of the program is to expand city employees’ careers; by obtaining educational experience in additional areas they will be better equipped to take on more advanced positions within the city.
“I knew that because of the market, there may be some opportunities to provide an adjusted-time program – be it a micro-credential certification, as we call them – that would help that person be able to compete for higher roles,” said Dr. Larry Johnson, president of Phoenix College. “I met with Ed Zuercher, the city manager of Phoenix, and we began to really talk about the needs of some of their workforce. It was really an opportunity to eliminate the barrier of students having to physically come to the campus, and through this ‘Neighborhood College,’ my goal was to assure that we met the employers’ needs and that we met students where they were.”
110 employees have utilized the program’s courses since its creation, and the city is hoping to see more attendance during this upcoming session. If employees pass their courses, the city will reimburse the cost of their tuition.
“It was really a collaborative effort with the city of Phoenix who saw the need of really scaling up their workforce and giving an opportunity for their employees,” Johnson said. “And they offer tuition assistance, so that was also an added benefit for those employees so they could use the tuition assistance to scale themselves up in certain roles to make them more marketable in the City of Phoenix. That was really the genesis – meeting those needs. We could remove the barrier of transportation and remove the barrier of navigating to campus. We really saw this as a way of helping our community and being thought leaders in terms of helping these persons, who otherwise might not have this opportunity, to come back to school.”
The availability of education opportunities is becoming increasingly important in the workforce across the nation, as well. According to a Gallup poll from 2016, 87 percent of millennials rated “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in any job.
And employers – like the City of Phoenix – are taking note of this. In 2014, just 18 percent of companies provided onsite professional development programs. As of last year, this figure is up to 69 percent, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
“Our employees want to do the best job they can, and we want to do everything we can to help them succeed,” said City Manager Ed Zuercher in a statement. “For many years Phoenix has encouraged continuing education for employees, and our partnership with Phoenix College helps us make education available in a way that is flexible and accommodates a variety of work schedules.”
Dr. Johnson highlights equity in education as one of Phoenix College’s central goals and one of the primary drivers of this program. “From 1920 to present, it has been our goal to ensure that we provide lifelong opportunities for a diverse student population and workforce, so this partnership aligns with our mission and certainly our goals and strategic priorities over the next couple of years,” Johnson said.