Re­gen­hardt new leader of Ari­[email protected]

Ex-lit­er­acy pro­gram di­rec­tor dis­cusses mission, sur­prises of net­work

Yuma Sun - - NEWS - BY BLAKE HER­ZOG @BLAKEHERZOG

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.

BILL RE­GEN­HARDT

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