COVID-19 pandemic affects summer youth WIOA program

Kyle Knox

Gila River Indian News


Summer break is an excellent opportunity for youth, 16-25, to gain workplace experience through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program at the Employment & Training Department. Because this isn’t a typical year, the summer WIOA program has had to pause its programming due to COVID-19 leaving the 149 enrolled participants without the program this summer.


DeAnna Ringlero, Program Supervisor, WIOA & Tribal Youth Programs, oversees the program and has seen the effects of COVID-19 on the summer program. Ringlero said the program remains in operation, but summer programming has ceased “due to the closure and/or limited full-time workforce of so many of the departments we partner with, who help our youth by providing practical, job-related training.”


The summer program is only one portion of the WIOA program; the other is a year-round program catering to juniors and seniors in high school, however, many of those sites have been forced to close. 

But with keeping everyone’s safety in mind, Ringlero said, “For the most part, our participants and parents have been understanding of the reasons why our summer work experience has not happened yet.” And as a program, she also mentioned that “It’s a challenge for all of us, but what we can all agree upon is that the safety of our youth comes first.”


WIOA remains active with the current 45 year around participants by utilizing the CTC lab and GED program at Central Arizona College.  


The program has also been active in delivering food boxes, check-ins, incentives, and support services while participants pursue their post-secondary education. 


WIOA has utilized teleconference and online webinars to provide to participants. Ringlero stated, “We are in the process of partnering and co-creating another facet of our Summer Youth Program. It will serve students interested in learning more about the environmental field and the importance of understanding how it affects other career paths. We will most likely be able to include other ways to deliver services utilizing technology, some that we may have never thought of before.”


Until programming can continue as it did before the pandemic, Ringlero wants the Community to know, “We are still here and working for the youth.” 


Further saying, “[The pandemic] has forced us to think differently about how we deliver services and will undoubtedly impact the programs we develop in the future. We look forward to serving the youth in new and exciting ways. Thank you for your understanding, and continue to stay safe.”