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  • County One-Stop paves new career path for local woman

    Elena M. Gonzalez has a master’s degree in public administration. She was a police officer in New Jersey for 11 years, rising to sergeant. More recently, she had been working in code enforcement for the City of Tucson.

    Then she was laid off last December.

    “They had billing that needed to go out for various violations, and their technical team was moving over to a new system,” Gonzalez said. “I was placed in a position to build a new database. I got to a point, but I couldn’t go any further fast enough.”
    Elena Gonzalez
    It was at that point that Gonzalez walked into the Pima County One-Stop Career Center.

    Since then, she has gone a lot further. And fast.

    Gonzalez, at 47, highly educated with a successful work history, wanted -- still needed -- that extra bit of training that would elevate her job opportunities in database administration. At the One-Stop, she met with workforce development specialist Curtis Stokelin, who connected her with Jon Struebing at the New Horizons Computer Learning Center, which is one of the One-Stop's many training partners.

    They laid the path. She did the work.

    Gonzalez said the education she received at New Horizons on the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) SQL Database program was "invaluable." She mastered a programming language that is helping her fulfill her career goals.

    "Jon and Curtis worked together in getting the paperwork together, working on my schedule and making sure what needed to be paid was paid," Gonzalez said. "They really assisted me in going through this process and making sure I got started and then checking up throughout the course, which was a good six or seven months. They were the wave behind me that inspired me."

    This is what the workforce arm of the Pima County One-Stop does. The program connects workers and job seekers -- youth, adults, veterans, and dislocated workers -- to ARIZONA@WORK, a statewide network of employment, training, and educational programs.

    But Gonzalez isn’t who you necessarily think of as a typical One-Stop success story. 

    "There's a perception in the community that we just help people who have low-income barriers," Stokelin said. "That is far from the truth. We have all kinds of individuals with all kinds of socio-economic backgrounds. 

    "Elena had a lot more education, a lot more training than a typical client. She just needed to be in touch with the right folks that could lead to getting the job that she wanted. I always say we work with folks who have GEDs all the way up to PhDs."

    Gonzalez used her new technical skills and some of her old police department connections to land a job working remotely on a major project for the City of West Palm Beach, Florida. She earned a written commendation from the city's Internal Auditor's Office and was asked to submit proposals for two additional projects. She was awarded both. 

    Because of her background in law enforcement in Monmouth County, N.J., one of her new jobs is to assist in an audit of internal affairs for the West Palm Beach police department. 

    To most of us, this database auditing -- with all the programming and formatting -- is like a foreign language. After her One-Stop experience, Gonzalez was able to perfect her skills in a database management system like Microsoft Access that allows her to speak that language. She can make sense of it all and translate it back to English to help others make important decisions.
    One-Stop training classes
    Which she loves.

    "In order to have policy change, you need to be in a position to make decisions," she said. "And sergeant wasn't high enough for that. I was a road sergeant. I was out on the road, and I loved it, and I loved being around people. But the area that I loved was being able to take something that appears to be broken and fixing it and making it better."

    Gonzalez recommends the One-Stop for anybody seeking to compete in the job market. The One-Stop offers training, education, job connections or help just getting started with classes on resume-building and interviewing. And more.

    "I think more people should go to the One-Stop," she said. "I don't think it is given the credit it deserves. More people should utilize those services. They can help you pivot whatever direction you need to go in."

    Photos: (Top) Elena Gonzalez. (Bottom) The One-Stop regularly connects job-seekers with the training they need to be more marketable in the workplace.
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