Having faced significant health challenges, Tenniel Schwarm knew she wanted to improve her quality of life and began focusing on her physical and mental health. When the pandemic hit, her plans, like those of many Arizonans, were temporarily derailed. However, Route to Relief was able to help get Schwarm back on track to reaching her goals. Route to Relief Workforce Program.
Route to Relief at Maricopa Community Colleges was initially launched with the city of Phoenix in July 2022 to help Phoenix residents like Schwarm gain the necessary skills to re-enter the workforce or secure better employment prospects following the pandemic. The workforce development initiative was later expanded to include additional investment from Maricopa County and the eligibility was broadened to include all Maricopa County residents.* Route to Relief offers eligible participants free tuition toward a wide range of short-term occupational training programs and certificates, along with monthly stipends to help students overcome financial barriers to successfully completing their training program, such as child care, housing and transportation. In addition, participants are provided with employment assistance, including referrals to Route to Relief hiring partners, professional resume reviews, communications about upcoming job fairs and more.
“Maricopa Community Colleges, as one of Arizona’s leading workforce development training providers, has consistently demonstrated its commitment to cultivating a highly skilled workforce that meets the labor demands of our state,” said Jason Weinstein, executive director of Maricopa Corporate College. “Our innovative partnerships with the city of Phoenix and Maricopa County provides supplemental funding to Maricopa County residents, creating a critical entry point for students to acquire new skills, make a positive impact on their lives, and start fresh in a new and exciting career path.”
Funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
Route to Relief is designed to help individuals whose employment and/or household income was impacted by the pandemic quickly gain the industry-recognized credentials and skills employers in our region seek. Eligible academic programs were carefully selected based on a number of factors, including the length of the program, the inclusion of an industry credential upon completion, the number of employers hiring in the region, the abundance of jobs’ projected growth wages and pathway considerations.
The list of programs is continuously updated based on relevance, workforce demand and ability for participants to complete before the grant ends in December 2024; however, students have nearly 100 academic programs to choose from that span across all 10 Maricopa Community Colleges. Some of the most popular programs and courses among Route to Relief participants include Nursing, Advanced Behavioral Sciences, Community Health Work, Database Development, Early Childhood Education, Small Business Management and the Semiconductor Technician Quick Start.
Since the project’s launch, nearly 600 people have enrolled in a certificate or degree program through Route to Relief, with more than $3.5 million paid directly to students in the form of monthly stipends and over 130 students completing their academic programs. Seventy students have gained training-related employment. Of these students, 64% reported an annual household income of less than $35,000 prior to starting their program, 66% self-identified as Black, Latino, Native American, or two or more races and 58% reported having less than a college degree.
After completing her training program, Schwarm gained employment and proudly works as a behavior technician with TRUE ABA, an organization she was connected to through Route to Relief, which focuses on applied behavior analysis (ABA) for children with autism. As a result of the support she received, Schwarm’s physical and mental health also improved, and she even published a book about her experiences titled “Writing to Heal.”
TRUE ABA has been able to hire a number of Route to Relief participants whose life experience, paired with their new credentials, makes them highly successful in their new positions.
“Pairing up with the Route to Relief program helped us find passionate, committed and excited new staff,” said Leticia Lomeli, clinical director at TRUE ABA. “Over 50% of our staff is from the Route to Relief program, and they have all been amazing. All of them are in the process of becoming registered behavior technicians, and some of them are even on the road to becoming lead team members to assist in training others.”
Route to Relief aims to help more than 400 additional Maricopa County residents achieve their career goals before the end of the grant in December 2024. Maricopa Community Colleges offers a wide range of training programs that connect a skilled workforce to in-demand, high-wage careers. Maricopa Community Colleges bridges the gap between people seeking rewarding professions and Arizona employers needing an experienced workforce to alleviate labor shortages.
Individuals interested in taking advantage of Route to Relief can apply at maricopa.edu/r2r. Employers interested in participating in hiring events, receiving students’ resumes and hiring Route to Relief participants can visit maricopa.edu/r2r-employer.
Source: Route to Relief Workforce Program
The Maricopa County Community College District includes 10 individually-accredited colleges – Chandler-Gilbert, Estrella Mountain, GateWay, Glendale, Mesa, Paradise Valley, Phoenix, Rio Salado, Scottsdale and South Mountain – and the Maricopa Corporate College, serving approximately 140,000 students with bachelor’s degrees, two-year degrees, certificates and university transfer programs.
*Route to Relief is currently paused for all city of Phoenix residents but is available to those who live in other cities within Maricopa County.