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  • One-Stop manager helps prepare youth for workforce

    Jan 05, 2017 | Read More News
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    Karla Bustamante had earned her high school diploma and was working as a caregiver, but had bigger dreams. Supporting her young son on minimum wage was not going to give either of them the life they wanted.

    So Bustamante took advantage of funding offered through the Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and enrolled in classes at Pima Community College toward a Certified Nursing Assistant certification. 

    Daphanie Conner is one of the people who helps youth like Bustamante connect with funding sources that can turn potential high-school dropouts into productive members of the local workforce. Conner is the new program manager with the ARIZONA@WORK Pima County Youth One-Stop Center, which offers workshops, case management, a long-running Summer Youth Employment Program and a host of other support services to out-of-school youth age 16 to 24. The Youth Employment Center, 2323 S. Park Ave., is one of three One-Stop Centers operated by the County’s Community Services, Employment and Training Department

    Daphanie Conner with student clientThe Youth One-Stop delivers these services by partnering with a number of agencies, including Tucson Youth Development, where Bustamante got assistance, the Tucson Urban League and others. They help youth with job searches, get them work experience with public and private employers and connect them with post-secondary education and training – anything to help prepare young people for the workforce.

    Conner, a 47-year-old mother of three, got her start with the Urban League in 1999. She also has worked with multiple youth programs recognized as national models, said her supervisor Eddie Saavedra. 

    “Daphanie has 20 years of experience in workforce development, employment and training, providing youth with work experience in growing industry sectors, which allows us to continue to prepare a trained workforce to meet business employment needs.”

    Where some might see hopelessness — poverty, an unplanned pregnancy, homelessness — Conner sees opportunity. The young people who face these challenges are the ones she’s most eager to help.

    “The youth who need some extra hand holding, the ones who fell through the cracks, they are the ones I relate to,” said Conner, a Cholla High School graduate who got her first job in the County’s Summer Youth Employment Program. “If we don’t focus on them, they’ll be right back in the system.”

    One of the youth now “out of the system” and on her way is the young mother, Karla Bustamante. 

    Two years after starting her post-secondary training, she has her certification and a $20/hour job with Cornerstone Hospital of SouthEast Arizona. She expects to complete a nursing degree through Arizona State University in spring 2017. 


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