by Doug Puppel
Las Vegas has enjoyed a remarkable economic comeback in the decade since the end of the Great Recession.
In the last 10 years, unemployment has fallen from 12 percent to below 5 percent, and the Southern Nevada workforce has grown by more than a quarter-million people.
One area that has not shared in the comeback is Ward 5 in the city of Las Vegas. It extends west of downtown and is home to some of the city’s oldest and poorest neighborhoods — and the jobless rate is 15 percent.
Councilman Cedric Crear represents the area and his Ward 5 Works program aims to assist both the long-term unemployed and young people entering the workforce.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth happen around the area, and it hasn’t quite happened yet in Ward 5 — right in the core of Ward 5, in the heart of it in the historic Westside,” the councilman told State of Nevada.
Ward 5 Works focuses on preparing people for jobs in construction, technology and healthcare through training, outreach and community partners.
Martin-Harris Construction, which is building several major projects in the ward, including the new Las Vegas Municipal Courthouse, is participating and encouraging its subcontractors to do so as well.
Company President Guy Martin said the company was attracted to Ward 5 Works because of its focus on cultivating strengths and promoting success.
“I have been to countless speaking engagements where I hear people talk about ‘the less educated,’ ‘the less employable,’ the less this, the less that,” he said. “I’m 50 years old. I’m born and raised in Las Vegas; this is my 37th year with the company. I’m not less anything, and neither is a single person that works in our organization.”
Ward 5 Works will be based out of offices at the Westside School, which is already home to the nonprofit Tech Impact, a partner in the Ward 5 effort that teaches technology skills.
The Strong Future Tech Studio, which will prepare program participants for careers in esports, app development, video game production, and cybersecurity, is also planned for the Westside School.
Chief Community Services officer for the City of Las Vegas, Lisa Morris-Hibbler said the plan also involves engaging the community through navigators, which will be people from the community with a lot of connections.
The navigators will talk to people about the program and then work like a coach to keep them involved.
“I don’t think you could undervalue just having somebody that is on your team that wants you to succeed,” she said.
Morris-Hibbler said the program will also connect people to ways to overcome obstacles that might be preventing them from getting or keeping a job like transportation or childcare.
“I believe in my heart that people really want to work. I believe that people want to have an honest working job that pays them an honest wage, that gives them honest benefits, and they want to provide for their families,” Councilman Crear said.