On July 24, the Associated Press headline “Across U.S. Job Market, Layoffs are Becoming Rare” caught my eye. The piece made a case for showing that as the economy has improved nationally, employers have regained confidence and have been shedding fewer workers.
As of late July, the story stated, unemployment benefits dipped to their lowest level since February 2006.
The unfortunate reality for many communities such as ours, however, is that local economies remain fragile. On July 18, days before that article was published, 345 Walgreens employees in Flagstaff learned that their jobs were being cut after
Walgreens announced its plan to close its distribution center located in Flagstaff.
Shortly after this devastating news was delivered to employees, members of the Coconino County Rapid Response Team met with Walgreens representatives to identify potential career services and coaching the county could offer displaced staff members.
The Coconino County Career Center has served as a community resource for employers and job seekers since 1978. Programs offered by the center are designed to bridge the gap between employers and those needing assistance to land their next job.
More than that, the Coconino County Career Center has helped thousands of residents find the confidence and tools needed to enhance their lives.
The County’s Rapid Response team is comprised of local organizations and employers from the social service, education and business sectors. The team works with employers and people involved in company closures or layoffs by connecting them with customized, timely resources to help facilitate and ease the transition into their next job or career.
Through the Career Center, those out of work may receive training and educational funding to support the job hunt, as well as résumé and interview assistance, and other key services. The county knows that layoffs impact not only the local economy but can place a strain on families, so it is often in our best interest to do what we can to ensure our local workforce has the tools needed to be successful.
However, our residents and companies can only benefit from the Career Center if proper funding is available. While much of the center is funded through grants, additional funding is made available through the federal Workforce Investment Act, or the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA).
Last month, the county and Board of Supervisors applauded the United States Congress and President Barack Obama for reauthorizing this important funding source. Last year, the county local workforce system served more than 2,000 job seekers and employers with funding from the WIA.
Our national and local leaders know how critical it is to help secure our local economies.
One of the most important things we can do to achieve that goal is to invest in our local workforce. Because of this, the county worked tirelessly with the Arizona Congressional Delegation to gain support for reauthorization of the WIOA.
Funding sources such as the WIOA provide counties, such as Coconino County, the tools we need to help those who need it most within our community. Our county stands ready to assist job seekers and help keep the former Walgreens workers within our community.
Layoffs and company closures can be devastating to a community and the local economy. However, having a support network in place for those in need helps ensure the pain is short-lived and that the newspaper headlines touting the rarity of layoffs continue to ring true throughout our region.
By Cynthia Seelhammer
For more information on the Career Center, visit www.coconino.az.gov/careercenter
Coconino County Manager Cynthia Seelhammer is a resident of Flagstaff.