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One-Stop connects workers, employers, colleges to build economy

Jul 01, 2013 | Read More News
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Cecilia Murch was 50 years old in March 2010 and had worked for 31 years when her employer shut down the department she worked in and laid off all the employees in it.

In the depths of the country’s economic slump, Cecilia had some dark days.

Cecilia MurchBut she recently obtained Northern Arizona University’s first bachelor of applied science degree in logistics and supply chain management. She’s got a job with Pima County and is working toward her master’s degree.

And Pima County’s One-Stop Career Center played a key role in her turnaround. Not only did it help her – as it has thousands of other unemployed Pima County residents – obtain training to improve her job skills and help her find employment, but it worked with employers and colleges to help design a certificate and degree curriculum to produce the skilled workers needed in a critical and growing industry.

“We all do logistics every day,” Cecilia says, “when we look in the refrigerator and say ‘I’m getting low on milk. I need more eggs.’”

On a grander scale, logistics is about managing the flow of materials, products and even people across town, across the state, across the country and around the world so offices and factories can produce, warehouses and stores are stocked, restaurants can cook, and the things we want to buy are on the shelves, racks and showroom floors when we want them.

Pima County is ideally situated to grow its logistics industry – with two airports, east-west rail and interstate highway, and Mexico with its deep-water port to the south. Just last month, a cargo container traveled from China through the port of Long Beach, Calif., to Tucson without ever touching a highway.

But Cecilia wasn’t thinking about logistics in 2010. “It is just an awful feeling to not know if or when you would be employed again,” she said. Other people who had been laid off told her and her former co-workers about One-Stop.

“Pima County One-Stop truly was one stop,” Cecilia said. “We had 3-inch ring binders to look through for jobs. There was an entire listing of scheduled classes … that were offered at no charge to us: resume builder, skills assessment and career exploration. It was very organized and gave some structure to our daily lives. It was very reassuring that we were doing something positive and productive towards re-employment.

“The times had changed even in the 10 years since I had interviewed for the job I was laid off from. Everything was very impersonal, web-based. You did not sell yourself to another human, and you had to use the ‘correct’ target words so a computer program would pull your application for the human resources department to call you.

“One-Stop had fliers and employment fairs and even vendors who came to speak to potential job applicants. I cannot stress how much it was appreciated that there were faces that smiled and greeted you each day you attended class. The instructors were upbeat and helpful and gave us confidence that something positive would come our way.”

One-Stop had been laying the groundwork for “something positive.” In 2008, it received a $2 million U.S. Department of Labor grant and worked with logistics industry employers and Pima Community College to develop certificate and degree programs in logistics.

Cecilia had done some logistics work for her previous employer but had no formal training. “When I saw the flier for the Logistics and Supply Chain I asked about the program, completed the paperwork and testing and was approved,” Cecilia said. “It was that easy.

“I began taking the courses at the Pima East Campus (in the fall of 2010). The classes were 8 weeks in length and just perfect for an older student who needed to get back into the swing of things.”

Cecilia was hired by Pima County in January 2011 to work in Fleet Services. But she kept up with her studies. By the end of 2011, Cecilia, who received an associate’s degree in digital electronics in 1987, had obtained a basic certificate, an advanced certificate and an associate’s degree in logistics and supply chain management.

“My Pima credits transferred to Northern Arizona University for their bachelor’s program, which is 100% online.” This spring she became the first person to graduate from NAU with a bachelor’s of applied science in logistics and supply chain management. She started working on her master’s immediately – “Again there were 8-week classes so I was able to squeeze in 5 classes this first semester” – and expects to graduate with a master’s in public administration next spring.

Cecilia says she gets to use her logistics training in her Fleet Services job, making sure vehicles are serviced and available to take Pima County officials and staff where they need to go when they need to go.

“I loved my job,” she says of the position she was laid off from in 2010. “But I love the job I have now.”

Visit One-Stop online for more information.