A Tucson-area job training program has boosted the income of 300 people over the last five years, with nearly 80 percent of graduates still employed locally, according to a new report.
And Pima County has benefited from an estimated $34.3 million in direct and indirect economic impact from JobPath, a job training program supported by Pima County, the city of Tucson and private business donors, according to an economic impact study presented to the JobPath board on Wednesday.
The five-year study by Phoenix-based Applied Economics LLC was the longest look of its kind for JobPath, which was created in 1998 by the Pima County Interfaith Council and local business leaders.
JobPath provides unemployed and underemployed people with counseling, financial and other assistance for long-term education and training, mainly at Pima Community College, in fields including nursing, dental hygiene, biotech research, medical lab technology and aircraft maintenance.
The study found that of 378 graduates of JobPath from 2009 through 2014, 300 remained working in Pima County, 71 moved or could not be tracked and seven continued their education.
Average wages for 2009 to 2014 graduates, from their first post-training jobs to their current jobs, rose between 24 and 69 percent depending on how long ago they graduated and their years of work experience.
The report showed that, on average, program graduates’ salaries increased by about $3,700 per year for each added year of work experience, generating nearly $10 million in additional income over five years, the study found. The figures are based on unemployment insurance data from the Arizona Department of Economic Security.
“That tells us we are fulfilling our mission and we are making a very important impact on our community,” said Martha Gerganoff, president of the JobPath board and chief nursing officer at Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital.
Sarah Murley of Applied Economics noted that the 79 percent local retention rate was particularly impressive because the local economy overall was struggling to recover from the Great Recession during much of the five-year study period.
“Given that kind of economic climate, that kind of retention rate is significant,” she said.
Besides the direct and indirect economic effects tracked by the study, Murley said, many of the graduates were formerly on some form of public assistance.
As they increase their incomes, JobPath graduates have more time to spend with their families, Pima County Supervisor Richard Elías said.
“Their wages rose, so now they don’t have to have two or three jobs,” he said.
Having time to study is another benefit of JobPath assistance.
David Lee, a 28-year-old JobPath grad who works as a technician for Radiology Ltd., bounced around in various jobs, including working at Old Tucson Studios and moving patients around Tucson Medical Center, before deciding to attend Pima Community College for radiology.
Lee said JobPath’s support, which included tuition assistance and prepaid gas and food cards, helped him get through school without working — key since radiology students spend 40 hours a week on class and clinical time alone.
“It’s such a major program ... having to juggle a job, my grades would have really suffered,” said Lee, who got a job offer from Radiology Ltd. soon after graduating in May 2014 but spent the summer working on a fishing boat with a friend in Alaska.
Pima County is JobPath’s biggest funder, contributing more than half of the program’s roughly $800,000 annual budget in recent years. Funding from the city has varied but was about $186,000 in the current year, according to JobPath.
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said skeptics often question economic impact studies — particularly the imputed, indirect effects — but the $10 million increase in income over five years is compelling.
“The point is, anytime we can spend a half a million dollars to generate $10 million in income, we should be doing that, day in and day out,” Huckelberry said, noting that JobPath funding has been controversial in the past.