Last month, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the Access Points program in the City of Phoenix and Maricopa County. Access Points is one way the network of 3,000 One-Stop Career Centers partner with faith-based and community organizations to reach and serve job seekers with the greatest barriers to employment. Access Point networks are currently active in about 20 states and regions nationwide. A typical Access Point is a church, library, or nonprofit service organization that provides individuals with job search assistance, résumé preparation, computer instruction, or referral services. Access Points work closely with the local One Stop Centers to provide job seekers with timely labor market information. One Stop Centers view Access Points as an effective method for extending the geographic reach of their services and addressing the needs of underserved groups.
In Arizona, the two local workforce agencies from the City of Phoenix and Maricopa County jointly manage a network of 31 Access Points. The agencies have formal Memoranda of Understanding with each Access Point site that establish clear roles and responsibilities for the Access Point organization and the workforce agency. For example, the Access Points submit daily sign-in sheets to the agencies and the agencies share daily job openings from their system with the Access Points. Last quarter, the Phoenix/Maricopa network served nearly 2,000 job seekers.
While in town, I participated in the Phoenix/Maricopa County Access Points regional conference at North Phoenix Baptist Church. The optimism and positive energy in the room from among the more than 130 staff, volunteers, and community members was an experience to behold. But I was most honored to meet and listen to the stories of these unsung faith and community leaders who have committed themselves to improving the lives of those in need. As one Access Point coordinator told me, “Our staff and volunteers have had many of the same barriers as the people we serve,” which creates a comfort zone and natural bond between the staff member and client.
The Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Labor is actively reaching out to Access Points across the country and other One-Stop Center community partnerships, as well as encouraging the creation of new partnerships where they may not yet exist.
Ben Seigel is the Associate Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Labor.