Arlington Water Utilities Expands Internship Program to Help Job Seekers
By Alana Earle, Arlington Water Utilities
Posted on July 09, 2021, July 09, 2021

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A partnership between Arlington Water Utilities, ACH Child and Family Services, and Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County began as a way to assist young adults that set to age-out of the foster care system with obtaining professional certifications and relevant job experience. A year later, it has evolved into a way to help an even wider range of young people and adults seeking new opportunities to find stable employment by gaining skills and experience.

As the program has continued to grow, the concept has remained the same – create a mutually beneficial relationship between the City of Arlington and job seekers. Arlington has received more than 7,648 hours of work from interns since the program began. Since wages for the internships are provided by Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County, that translates into a savings of $107,778 in labor costs.

Craig Gantt, Acting Assistant Director of Utilities and Operations in the water department, has worked for the City of Arlington for 23 years. Interns in the Workforce Solutions program report to him. He and others in management saw a need for the program. Seasoned employees retiring and a shortage of young adults entering the water utilities field have caused a gap in staffing, he says.

“I don’t believe that our message of the benefits or working in the water utilities industry is reaching Generation Z. We must tailor the message that you can participate in a fulfilling, well-paying, lifelong career and perform a task that is vital for our survival without going to college. If we do not reach this demographic, it won’t bode well for our ability to ensure a bountiful supply of clean water for our future population,” Gantt says.

On the other side of the employment issue, Lamonica Miles, Workforce Solutions Business Liaison, is the link between job candidates and prospective employers. She works to pair candidates looking for stable employment, and even those simply looking for a career change, with reputable companies and organizations.

Miles works with each individual to help them figure out what marketable job skills they have. She also uses software that screens the candidates for their general information and helps to give a generalized report of where the individual will succeed. Marc Thompson, Workforce Solutions Special Projects Coordinator, provides similar services for the job seekers who are transitioning from the ACH foster care program.

Lacey Douglas, Workforce Solutions Communications and Events Director, works on the communications side to recruit potential employers, plan job fairs, and connect candidates with career counselors to help them apply for jobs.

Employers are looking to hire in Tarrant County, and job seekers are looking for their next career opportunity,” according to Douglas. The organization knows this from the virtual job fairs they are hosting which are drawing in double and sometimes triple the numbers of their pre-pandemic events and from individuals reaching out to their Workforce Centers to upgrade and enhance their skills.

Douglas says: “Some job seekers need interview or resume assistance or want to earn a certified credential, some just need to be connected with employers in their industry that are hiring. The good news, we can help with all of that!”

Gantt takes the interns, especially the foster youth, under Arlington Water Utilities’ wing and teaches them everything he can during the 8-12 week internship. He wants each person who enters the City through the internship to leave with a positive experience, all the resources they need to succeed, and with a job lined up for themselves.

“The goal is to give them everything we have,” he says.

So far, six of the 13 interns who completed the internship have gone on to join the City of Arlington team, with jobs in multiple departments.

“We’re not trying to [solely] get employees, we want to inspire people to be interested in utilities”, says Gantt.

The interns are provided with many support resources, not just from Arlington, but also from Workforce Solutions. While, the water department provides the necessary work needs, like proper uniforms and educational materials, the interns can also go to Gantt and any one of the Workforce Solutions team members for guidance and support, if needed. The teams involved with helping the interns go out of their way to nurture these individuals’ true potentials.

“This program doesn’t work unless we have the support we receive from the City. Because of the City, we’re able to be successful with helping candidates explore exciting opportunities on a career path of their choosing,” Douglas says.

Gantt has connected interns with other positions outside of the water department after an internship ended. The most important thing to both the City and Workforce Solutions is that the people who participate in the internship find employment, wherever that may be, that suits them best and will give them a stable and comfortable life.

Two of the department’s newest employees Rhonda Stewart and Yajaira Gonzalez began their Workforce Solutions internships on in November 2020.

Rhonda said her internship began as a way to start a new career after being laid-off from working for the JPS Health Network for 22 years. She began her internship under Janee Alexander, Customer Service Specialist at City Hall.

“It doesn’t matter how many questions you ask; she’ll make sure to answer them all. She is always so professional and cordial, it was such a meaningful experience working under the supervision of such an individual with expertise of her job,” Rhonda says.

Rhonda’s internship ended in early February. She is now a Senior Account Clerk at the Water Utilities South Service Center. She is responsible for the payroll and administrative action of 121 employees. In addition, Rhonda verifies and ensures timely renewal of over 300 Water and Wastewater licenses. She works with many customer accounts and handles the received bill payments for Water Utilities.

Yajaira Gonzalez previously worked at a grocery store, but decided she wanted to pursue a more professional job that could set her up for a stable career. During her internship, she worked with the department’s training administrator to record what types of licenses water department employees had based on data from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. She also learned how to help compile monthly budget reports and other business documents. She also used the department’s asset management system, Cartegraph, to help track the work of operations field crews in Arlington.

She does similar work since being hired full time as an Administrative Secretary for Operations at the South Service Center.

“I wanted more experience; I didn’t know what to expect at first. I feel really comfortable here,” Yajaira says.

Stewart and Yajaira say they’re grateful to everyone involved in the internship partnership, including managers and employees at Arlington Water Utilities and Workforce Solutions.

“I’m just glad our career counselors thought of us when this internship came up,” Stewart says.

If you or someone you know is looking for a job, some guidance, or even a fresh start in their career, please contact Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County through any of these methods:

• Find them on our social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn
• Sign up for email and text alerts at: https://workforcesolutions.net/contact-us/#alerts
• Call their main number: 817.413.4000 (Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
• Email us at: info@workforcesolutions.net
• Or message them on our web chat and a live representative will be happy to help you. www.workforcesolutions.net (Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

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