Mobile Career Units are the newest way the city of Phoenix is helping residents find jobs.

The units are currently in their prototype phase and are offering limited services as the city figures out the best way to help residents. Many unemployed residents do not have internet access or have trouble filling out online applications. The mobile career unit will give job seekers access to computers and people who can guide them through the application process.

Jovanna Parkhouse, a workforce development supervisor for the city of Phoenix, said many residents are looking for jobs.

“There are a lot of people who are looking for work, a lot of businesses that need to hire people, and there’s a kind of disconnect,” Parkhouse said. “We wanted to figure out a way to connect individuals to these employers… and provide resources that will help them further their career paths.”

The goal is “to address one of the greatest challenges experienced by job seekers and local employers: connectivity,” according to the city’s website.

James Montoya, a workforce project manager for the city of Phoenix’s economic development department, said the mobile career unit addresses that issue.

“The mobile career unit is about connectivity,” Montoya said. “If (residents) are at the grocery store and they need a job, they can come here and find a job. If they’re out in the community at a park, and they see our mobile career unit, they can get a job.”

The project began as part of the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge, a competition hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Cities with more than 100,000 residents were invited to apply with an idea for something that would provide relief to residents from a problem caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment is rising in Phoenix, where more than 20 percent of those over the age of 16 are currently unemployed, according to the Bloomberg Philanthropies website. Of the 631 cities that submitted applications for the challenge, 50 of them, including Phoenix, were chosen to move on to the next round. Of those cities, 15 will win $1 million to continue working on their ideas.

Phoenix and the 49 other cities advancing in the competition were given money to create and test prototypes. The ultimate goal is for the winning projects to be implemented in cities across the world.

The city recently held an event in a Food City parking lot to gather feedback from the public about the mobile career unit prototypes. Those who came to this event also could apply for jobs at Food City and four people were hired through the unit. Residents were asked what barriers they faced while looking for a job and what they wanted to see in the mobile career unit.

The prototype units are built inside repurposed Dial-a-Ride vans. If Phoenix is one of the Mayors Challenge winners, the team plans on purchasing one or two large RVs, Parkhouse said. The project will continue even if Phoenix doesn’t move forward in the challenge. Next month the winners of the 2021 Global Mayors Challenge will be announced.