Regenhardt new leader of Ari[email protected]
Ex-literacy program director discusses mission, surprises of network
The Yuma Private Industry Council, operating within the statewide Ari[email protected] network, is nearly 30 years old, but its new executive director considers it the area’s “best-kept secret.”
Bill Regenhardt, who took over the job from longtime director John Morales in October, said that while he’d worked with Ari[email protected] for two years while leading Adult Literacy Plus of Southwest Arizona, he was surprised to find out just how much the local office does.
“I’m still feeling my way around it, too,” he said.
There are the employment-related services the offices are probably best known for: posting open positions, hosting job fairs and offering training and job-search assistance, particularly for dislocated workers getting laid off as a business closes.
Specialized services are available for seekers who are disabled, veterans or 55 and older.
Additional choices are available for youth up to age 24. Most of these are available through the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Career Center or at the EOC (Educational Opportunity Center) Charter High School, where students 21 and younger can fulfill the credits they need to graduate.
“So there’s a wide range of services we provide to the employment side. But then we integrate our services and try to do it seamlessly with other community partners for housing and for food assistance, for mental and psych services, for re-entry services for those who are coming out of incarceration,” he said.
YPIC is federally funded under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, passed by Congress in 2014, and through different programs before then. The agency still officially goes by that name, but joined the Ari[email protected] workforce development network when it was launched by the state in early 2016.
All locations now use the Ari[email protected] Work name, and Regenhardt said one of his top priorities is stepping up the pace of the rebranding process.
Aside from that, he said he feels the Ari[email protected] office is already functioning well, and wants to expand on the knowledge and creativity of those who are already there.
Innovation is the order of the day there, he said: “That’s really the buzz around here. That’s the buzz, that’s what I really like. There’s constantly someone coming up with something.”
He said the constant reinvention could be crucial in serving a county that historically has one of the highest unemployment rates in the U.S. For September, its reported 19.1 percent rate was second-highest in the nation, right behind western neighbor Imperial County, Calif.
Many officials dispute the astronomically high rates routinely reported for the county, which peak during the summer and slowly return to levels still way above the national average for the winter and spring.
Regenhardt said the solution to joblessness will be two-pronged between workforce and economic development.
“As we look at how that works, we need to figure out ways to get them either educated or trained up and employed within the occupational sectors and clusters that we have, or figure out how to bring in and diversify the economy so we can put people into those jobs. I think we’re doing both, and we’re doing both really well,” he said.
Some of the agency’s contributions to that area will come in the form of providing statistics that prospective employers can use as they’re making location and hiring decisions.
“We’re constantly hearing ‘there’s no place we’ve ever gone that has information like you’re providing for us.’ I think that type of service, again will bring that type of caliber company into the area,” he said.
Collaboration with other agencies and service providers will be the other key to success, Regenhardt said. Something he mentioned is easily done here.
“It’s amazing how collaborative Yuma is. I think the entire state looks at us as kind of the gold standard and really the best practices area,” he said. “They’re always looking at us and saying, how do you do that? And I say there’s not a whole lot of infighting. We just get things done.”
Regenhardt himself is a relative newcomer to the area, arriving from his native Las Vegas just over two years ago. The original impetus was to be nearer to one of his adult daughters — who has since left for another job in California.
“I was actually looking for someplace with four seasons, but I grew up in the desert, I love the desert, and I don’t like cold too much,” he said. “And when I came here I just fell in love with this place.”
He was a longtime Las Vegas business consultant at the time, advising small and large workplaces on what they needed to improve upon and how to do it. He’d also served on Nevada’s statewide Workforce Connections Board, similar to Ari[email protected] Work in forming a network of local agencies.
At Adult Literacy Plus, he quickly became enmeshed in the local scene.
“Once I came into Yuma, I was getting to know everybody quickly. Yuma is so arms-wide-open, and welcoming, as long as you’re genuine and authentic, and willing to jump in with both feet, it makes things a lot easier,” he said.
Now he’s on the boards for the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce and Yuma Rotary. “If you get plugged in and you just start serving and build those collaborations. It’s amazing how fast things happen, because Yuma gets things done.”
For more information about Ari[email protected] County, visit www. arizonaatwork.com or www.ypic.com, or call (928) 323-0990.