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New program connects Valley high school students with career opportunities

Posted at 4:00 AM, Oct 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-22 08:38:49-04

PHOENIX — A new program in Valley schools is helping companies get new hires — but it's more than just a school-to-workforce pipeline, it's also a chance for students to gain real-world experience before they even graduate and get one step closer to their dreams.

For the past four months, Jose Barcenas has worked at Sanderson Ford in Glendale as a body technician - the perfect job for this teen with a dream.

"I wake up to a joyful, happy feeling every single day," explains Barcenas. "Getting an opportunity to work on these cars -- and it's fun!"

Barcenas is actually getting a head start on that job, thanks to a program that's offered through the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation. Now, the goal is to make sure other young adults like Barcenas get that same head start.

The program is called "ElevateEdAZ" - the Greater Phoenix Chamber, partnering with districts across the Valley to give students access to career coaching, job shadow programs, and even internship opportunities.

"We are really focused on connecting students with high-wage, high-demand careers so we are bringing together the business community and the education community and making sure students have access to high-quality pathways," explains Brittany Holmes, Vice President of ElevateEDAZ

Holmes says that hands-on training is key since these students are getting this kind of specialized training before even earning their diplomas.

"I think for students in career and technical programs, they get a wealth of knowledge in their program, but getting out to actually see a day in the life, to see people working in that field, gets them really excited to take the next be able to see themselves in one of those careers is really powerful."

And seeing themselves can also mean seeing people who look like them.

"I think with students coming from a Hispanic background, being able to provide for their family is really important and if we are able to open doors to allow them to do that, it goes back to retention and showing them that you are invested in their wellbeing," explains Cesar Martinez who works on recruiting new technicians like Barcenas for the Ford Motor Company. Martinez says he recognized Barcenas's passion early on.

"We're proud of him. In the very short time that he's been here."

"I bought my truck, I'm helping my parents pay their mortgage, and I'm really happy," says Barcenas.

For Barcenas, it all started with a job shadow opportunity - a field trip with his class to Sanderson.

Barcenas did a dual program through North High School and Metro Tech — he would take his academic classes at North and then in the afternoon, head to Metro Tech for his automotive training.

The Greater Phoenix Chamber says it's looking for more places to offer job shadow programs to these students, if you're interested, click here.